Anywhere where there is an accumulation of food, there is waste, and can result in a need for gleaning! This can occur at a trucking company, farmers market, grocery store, farm, packaging warehouse, and even at produce stands. Anytime produce is accumulated, there can be a loss. Some veggies get too hot or cold in transport, any number of factors can cause produce to age prematurely. It’s important to tell partners at any one of these locations to be aware of SoSA, how quickly we can respond, what types of food can be handled, how much food can be received and the best way to reach the SoSA state office. Often times, it’s easiest to find out what communication methods they prefer or what days they have the most loss of product. This way, it’s easier to know when to follow up with them and how. Gleaning in a farm gets food to feed pantries and showing up at a trucking warehouse gets you food to feed food pantries as well as grocery store donations. It’s important to identify capacity limits and capabilities with every produce recovery opportunity.
Society of St. Andrew(SoSA) Gleaning Network started in 1979 and slowly spread West, in unison with SoSA’s mission. In 2009, SoSA opened an office in Mississippi. Since then, SoSA has helped rescue more than 15 million pounds of food for families in need in our region. Mississippi is home to Vardaman, which is the sweet potato capital of the world. Their largest produce crop to glean is sweet potatoes, but corn, watermelon, and tomatoes are also prolific. The entrepreneurial spirit found in most Mississippians has helped us rescue progressively more food every year. Great success has been found in equipping, training and leading small groups into the fields to glean. Over time, these groups are encouraged to become independent and foster a stronger sense of community at the local level.
Currently, the Mississippi Gleaning Network leads more than 2,000 volunteers annually into the fields after harvesters to glean excess crops, into packing house to glean what isn’t sold, and into the parking lots to host our well-known Crop Drops. There are so many food deserts in geographically isolated regions that Crop Drops are almost a necessity. SoSA has also partnered with a local group called the Oxford Community Farmers Market and has duplicated their fresh food drive project. This allows a greater variety and more regular frequency of produce available for the pantries.