By Christine Hill
After the Harvest is looking for volunteers to help reduce food waste by gleaning fields of fresh, but unsalable, produce and delivering it to organizations that feed people in need across Kansas and Missouri.
Since May 2014, the non-profit organization has delivered more than 2.5 million pounds of food to local pantries and food banks such as Harvesters Community Food Network. Utilizing staff and volunteers, the group gleans the usable leftovers at local and regional farms and procures produce from commercial growers across the country.
“After the Harvest provides a critical important service to our area,” said Lisa Ousley, executive director of After the Harvest. “We help prevent the waste of perfectly good food, and at the same time we are helping families that are struggling to feed their children.”
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 31 percent, or 133-billion pounds, of available food at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. It spoiled, was left on people’s plates, was not economically feasible to recover, was damaged or for some other reason was wasted. While at the same time in Missouri and Kansas, nearly 1.5 million people are food insecure – meaning many choosing between paying for food or basic services like medicine and utilities.
Volunteers join After the Harvest in farmers’ fields and orchards to gather a wide variety of fruits and produce such as pears, chestnuts, kale and apples that are either missed during the harvest or unable to be sold because they are blemished or not a standard size.
“It’s important to know that the food that we donate to feed hungry people is really the best food available,” said Ousley. “It’s in great condition. Maybe it’s not the right size, maybe the cucumbers are 10 inches instead of 6 1/2 or 7, or maybe the apples have a spot on the skin.”
After the Harvest works with several partners, like The Giving Grove, to provide produce to local organizations including Harvesters and Episcopal Community Services.
“We are Harvesters largest and most sustainable local fresh produce donor,” said Ousley.
Gleaning volunteers for After the Harvest often come from local businesses, faith congregations and schools. Individuals and groups can join gleaning events online by signing up at www.aftertheharvestkc.org.
Upcoming gleaning events include:
Produce gleaning within 30 – 45 min. of Kansas City
- October 7, 9 a.m. – Noon,
- October 21, 9 a.m. – Noon
- October 28, 9 a.m. – Noon
Chestnut gleaning northwest of Lawrence, KS
- October 10, 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
The group is also hosting a Harvest Happy Hour fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m., Thursday, October 22 at Grace and Holy Trinity, 415 W. 13th St., Kansas City, MO. More information can be found at Harvest Happy Hour.