Central Washington has an abundance of commercial orchards and fields, which provide a vast opportunity for produce recovery. The largest hurdle to partner with commercial orchards is the the scale necessary to handle such opportunities. For example, a gleaning event took place at a 600-acre orchard. With the help of over 200 volunteer hours, 10 tons of apples were harvested, however, three-quarters of the apples available to glean were left untouched. Inviting large youth or church groups will increase the poundage harvested while exposing more of the community to produce recovery efforts. In an effort to bridge this gap, CSML’s Harvest VISTA worked with fellow Harvest VISTA (FISH Food Bank in Ellensburg and Community Harvest in Wenatchee) and gleaning organizations in Central Washington (Fields of Grace, Tri-Cities) to have events that included efforts from multiple organizations. Most volunteers are only willing to drive between 30 and 45 miles, so creative carpooling and mass transit options are necessary to increase attendance.
In 2015, Northwest Harvest in Yakima contacted the Harvest VISTA in Moses Lake to offer an opportunity to glean pears straight from a Yakima orchard. The VISTA took the opportunity and arranged a gleaning event in collaboration with Northwest Harvest. Facing problems similar to the aforementioned example, the VISTA and Northwest Harvest went out with the few local volunteers they had and started gleaning about 14 totes worth of pears. Even though volunteers were limited, it was successful because of all the totes both organizations filled.
In the same year, Cave B Winery called Rotary First Harvest to inform them of an opportunity to glean Red Delicious Apples. Their plan was to remove the apple trees due to the orchard not being profitable. The Harvest VISTA of Moses Lake visited the orchard to assess the quality and quantity of the apples to determine if it was at all possible to glean the trees before removal. The Harvest VISTA coordinated a gleaning event with the Senior Center Gleaners as well as CSML to collect and redistribute the Red Delicious Apples. Totes were located at the end of each orchard row due to the ground conditions not being ideal to place them within the rows. The event was a success because the Senior Center gleaners were able to provide more volunteers than before. Although it took time to fill and transport apples to the totes, the Gleaners gleaned six totes full, while an additional three totes were transported to CSML via truck.
Community Services of Moses Lake (CSML) strives to empower the community so that “Friends help friends feed the hungry.” CSML houses the Moses Lake Food Bank and is the distribution hub for 33 partner food banks in 5 counties in Central Washington. These counties include the 3 largest agricultural producers in Washington; Yakima, Benton and Grant counties. In 2012 CSML distributed approximately 120,000 pounds of fresh produce. With the presence of the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA in 2013, that number increased to well over 300,000 lbs. of produce. In 2014, only 68,750 pounds of produce were donated, but in 2015, over 99,675 pounds of produce was collected and distributed. Overall, CSML has collected approximately 757,155 pounds of fresh produce from farmers in the area.