Farmer’s markets are an ideal place from which to glean and if you visit often you’ll soon become a familiar face to the vendors and the Market Manager. Markets are a dichotomy of foodies, enthusiasts, and folks just beginning to take part in the local scene. You’ll encounter young and old and lots of dogs. If you’re new in town or want to learn more about local grown products, markets are excellent knowledge banks where tradition takes the front seat. There’s no need to sell the importance of gleaning because vendors and consumers alike have already jumped on the local food train.
The Bremerton Farmer’s Market supports Kitsap Harvest by allowing space at the Snap-Ed booth to promote the program. My colleague and I educated passersby about meal planning and budgeting and handed out recipes with emphasis on fruits, veggies, and whole grains. After a few weeks the same customers began coming back to talk to us and every week we learned something new. At times I'd watch people learn from one another, making new connections and feeling inspired to get creative in the kitchen. A basket was set up to encourage customers to consider a produce donation and at the end of each market vendors would fill it with berries, greens, squash, potatoes, and other veggies. Then off it would go to the three food banks in Bremerton. I hear the strawberries were especially well received.
One of my favorite aspects about tabling at all the markets was the children. Kids run on the summer grass with hands purple from scarfing down berries. This is where kids make the connection of farm to table and see the local food chain firsthand. At our booth we set up a scavenger hunt. We hid five plush veggie toys around the market and asked the kids to find them. Then they would come back with the completed checklist for a prize and some fun information about healthy eating and an active lifestyle. We handed out activities and worksheets geared toward making vegetables fun. The game quickly became popular as families came back week after week to scout the market and talk to us. The toys weren’t hard to find placed on a farm stand next to a basket of peppers or a bundle of beets. Not only did the vendors benefit from the attention, but this allowed me to get to know the growers on a personal level as I explained the new gleaning program and why it’s important to get kids excited about vegetables. Kitsap Harvest benefitted from the farmer’s market early in the season and I was able to watch it grow alongside my budding relationship with the entire community.
Kitsap Public Health District in conjunction with Rotary First Harvest is hosting an AmeriCorps VISTA to coordinate the food recovery efforts throughout Kitsap County. The mission is to create a sustainable, community-based system of broadening food security and alleviating food waste. The objective is achieved by recovering unsalable produce while increasing the amount of fresh and local produce in the eight food banks in the area. The work is done through two farmer’s markets, residential donations, outreach in the community, food banks, and in Kitsap Public Health’s new community garden.
April 2016 launched the program with the arrival of the first AmeriCorps VISTA. Overall the aim is to develop a county-wide gleaning program with the purpose of becoming a permanent volunteer based entity after the three year allotment with AmeriCorps. Identifying and strengthening relationships with local growers, food banks, farmer’s markets, volunteers and the community at large is at the heart of the program. Lastly, the coordination of volunteer based gleaning activities. Kitsap Harvest has the support of the Bremerton Farmer’s Market and WSU Extension. A recent partnership with the non-profit Seeds of Grace resulted in Kitsap Harvest supporting a community garden in which produce will be delivered straight to food banks and will engage the community of all ages.