As summer returns to Seattle, so does volunteer gleaning at JFS.
For two Sundays a month, from spring to fall, volunteers are needed to collect fresh produce from the Broadway Farmers Market. The vegetables and fruits are then distributed at the Polack Food Bank, which serves more than 1,300 households each month.
“Gleaning helps JFS provide fresh, local produce that might otherwise be inaccessible to guests of the Food Bank,” explained Food Bank Manager Esther Magasis. “It also reduces food waste from produce that might be too delicate to make it back to market next week.”
The nutritious food that is gleaned can help improve the health of Food Bank clients. Fresh, high quality produce can be cost prohibitive for low-income people to purchase regularly. Cheaper products may be more affordable but often have less nutritional value. This can make chronic health conditions like hypertension, obesity and diabetes more likely.
JFS volunteers like Sandy and Dennis Barnes are essential to helping people in need access the kinds of food that contribute to better health. The couple gleaned with JFS in 2015, then began collecting food donations from Uwajimaya, a local Asian supermarket that partners with the Food Bank.
From the moment Sandy heard about gleaning, she knew she wanted to be involved. “What a great idea to get fresh produce for the Food Bank clients,” she recalled thinking. She quickly signed her husband and herself up.
During their time gleaning, Sandy admired the generous vendors of the market who gave large amounts of fresh food. Last year, Alvarez Organic Farms donated nearly 2,000 pounds of eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, summer squash and other produce. This is about 80 grocery bags and nearly half of what JFS volunteers collected from the market that year.
It is a move that Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets praises, according to Executive Director Chris Curtis. “Our farmers make generous and voluntary donations at the end of every market day to local food banks so that Seattle’s food insecure community can participate in and enjoy the harvest,” she said. “And none of this precious locally grown food will go to waste.”
Join volunteer gleaning by contacting Jane Deer-Hileman, Director of Volunteer Services.
By Rachel Anne Seymour
Rachel is a trail-running dog owner and the Marketing and Communication Coordinator for JFS. She has previously worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers throughout the Midwest and Western Washington.