Keeping a gleaning program going for the long term can be a challenge; volunteers come and go, tree donors may move away - selling their properties to new owners who aren’t familiar with the program, the fruit harvest may vary from year to year - making it hard to predict how much fruit will come in or to plan ahead for storage and distribution of gleaned fruit.
Setting up a system for continuity is a good way to prepare for changes to the program – if someone is suddenly gone due to illness or family issues, having centralized records and written procedures is a good way to make sure that the program can function independently of who is running it. The human element can’t be transferred, but the data and technical side can.
Currently, Good Cheer uses Google drive to manage and collect data, documents, and files. This central storage – Google offers collective email, spreadsheets, calendars, file storage, the ability to share documents quickly, photo storage, etc. - makes a great hub for information. Files and information can be shared with co-workers and community partners, and records are easily available while still being secure.
One aspect of the centralized information system that has been extremely useful to Good Cheer this season is google maps. Tree donors are plotted on a map with specialized icons for the type of fruit, and the map is accessible via smartphone when scouting or picking. It’s also easy to see where tree donors are concentrated for planning a day with multiple locations – directions can be shared via email with gleaners. Volunteers can also be plotted on the map so that teams can be assembled based on location.
In the works for next season are an online calendar visible to the gleaning crew, a database of tree donors that includes individual tree information and harvest records, and a network of neighborhood ‘fruit watchers’, volunteers who are willing to keep an eye on trees in their neighborhood and let the gleaning coordinator know when the fruit is near ready and should be scheduled for picking.
Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores is one of South Whidbey’s oldest non-profits and has been feeding those in need since 1962. The food bank uses an innovative points system based on household size, which empowers clients to choose their own food items in a grocery store setting. Good Cheer’s thrift stores are a favorite local shopping destination, providing shoppers with affordable clothing, housewares, and entertainment. As well as offering a way for the community to reuse and recycle goods that might otherwise end up in the landfill, the thrift stores provide a significant portion of the funding needed to operate the food bank.
In 2009 Good Cheer expanded its commitment to providing fresh produce through a program called Fresh Food on the Table. The program includes an on-site garden, gleaning program, grocery rescue efforts, and the many individual home gardeners who donate their excess produce to the Food Bank. In 2017 this program brought a combined total of 56,276 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to food bank shoppers.