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Volunteers gathering extra farm produce for pantries need your vote

The Society of St. Andrews gleaned and donated over 4.1 million pounds of food.

SHERIDAN, Ind. — Indiana ranks as the sixth state with the highest percentage of food insecure people in the labor force according to United Way. And farmers don’t sell every single piece of grain or produce cultivated or grown.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “if just 5 percent of the U.S. broccoli production is not harvested, over 90 million pounds of broccoli goes uneaten. That would be enough to feed every child that participates in the National School Lunch Program over 11 4-ounce servings of broccoli.”

Stuckey Farms said regulations prohibit them from selling the apples that naturally fall from the tree on their own. But there’s a loophole, that produce can be donated. And that’s where Society of St. Andrews and its volunteers come in and gather the produce that can’t be sold. They then provide it to food pantries across the state.

“Almost all of our gleaning are last minute because farmers call and say, 'Hey we have some leftover can you come out tomorrow or in the next few days,'” said Dawn Barnes, Society of St. Andrews Indiana Regional Director.

“Gleaning” is an agricultural term. 

“Gleaning is just another word for harvesting, cleaning up a crop, if you will,” said Jeff Pierce, Owner of Stuckey Farm. “In this case, it’s primarily gleaning apples on the ground, there’s limitations about what can be done with this apples." 

He said in the past regulation allowed for these apples to be used for cider but then the regulation changed. Pierce said it’s because the seller can’t guarantee what happened to the produce after it fell from the tree. Volunteers of Society of St. Andrews, who were gleaning the apples, looked at each and every apple. Ones that look damaged get tossed to the side.

“You don’t want ones that are bruised or split open or cut,” said Jerry Garrett.

“We’ll probably glean about 500 pounds of apples. We'll fill up the back of one of our cars,” Barnes said. “This year we’ve already gleaned and donated over 4.1 million pounds of food.”

In all of 2020, they were able to gather 4.1 million pounds.

“We glean with about 41 farms throughout the state,” Barnes said. 

And they try to donate the food gathered to a pantry or hunger relief agency in the same county.

Pierce said Stuckey Farms is primarily an apple picking orchard for visitors and this is his way of giving back to the community. 

“As a business owner there’s the practical aspect of, 'that’s money for us that’s on the ground. We’ve lost that potential revenue.' And more of the human element, 'boy, that’s food on the ground that we’re not able to do anything with,'” Pierce said.

But with the help of Society of St. Andrews, the apples picked on Thursday are heading to White River Christian Church in Noblesville.

“We have donated already at the end of July to 213 hunger relief organizations throughout the state,” Barnes said. 

Society of St. Andrews is hoping a grant will help them reach even more people in need.

The organization is also competing for a $25,000 State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant. They’re currently in the running among the top 200 but need to make it to the top 40 by 11:59 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27. Anyone can vote up to 10 times per day. Society of St. Andrews said the $25,000 could cover 238,000 pounds of produce for food insecure Hoosiers.

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