A good neighbor joins The Salvation Army’s stand against hunger in Tifton, Georgia
By: David Ibata
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. – Deuteronomy 24:19 (NIV)
As The Salvation Army Service Center in Tifton, Georgia, started putting together Christmas gift baskets last fall, a surprise donation showed up: 1,500 pounds of sweet potatoes, packed into 300 five-pound bags.
Kelley Bedore, service center director, “mentioned she was putting together baskets when the sweet potatoes came in. The timing was perfect,” said Sandi Newman, program coordinator in Georgia for the Society of St. Andrew, dedicated to gathering surplus food for the needy through the Biblical practice of gleaning.
God ordained gleaning to ensure less fortunate people did not go hungry. It’s there in the Book of Ruth, Chapter 2 (NIV); Ruth and Naomi, refugees from Moab, arrive in Bethlehem as the barley harvest is beginning. “So (Ruth) went out, entered a field, and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz. …” You know the rest of the story.
“Sandi Newman is absolutely wonderful,” Bedore said. “She has volunteers go out and glean – different local farmers let them take food that’s left in the fields after they harvest their crops.”
The Salvation Army and other nonprofits also have gotten broccoli, cabbage, green peppers, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, squash, greens and cilantro – produce grown through the year in the South Georgia fields around Tifton. Besides gift baskets, food has gone to the service center food pantry and Family Store. “It’s a great partnership. We all collaborate together,” Bedore said.
When the growing season is good, the amounts to be harvested can be more than farmers need.
“One farmer called me today with 10 pallets of produce from his cooler to donate – seven loaded with boxes of greens, and three with boxes of cabbage,” Newman said. “Lots of times, they’ve filled their contracts; many times, they’re still bringing in the harvest, and they’re trying to clear out their coolers to make room for fresher produce they’re trying to market.”
“Usually this happens toward the end of the season, but this year it’s been happening more frequently,” Newman said. “That same farm last year donated about six truckloads of produce (at 45,000 pounds per load) because they’re overwhelmed. This happens a lot during the watermelon and cabbage seasons; the quantities grown are such, they have more in their packing house than they can handle at one time.”
Without an organization like the Society of St. Andrew, all that food might have gone to a landfill. The society was founded in 1979 in Big Island, Virginia, as an intentional Christian community to help resolve the problem of world hunger. In 1983, the Society of St. Andrew Potato and Produce Project delivered its first load of gleaned produce.
The organization today has offices in eight states that directly handle donations and recruits volunteers in 10 states. The volunteers are active in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Nationally, the society reported distributing 19 million pounds of fresh produce last year, gleaned or bagged by 25,544 volunteers at 6,037 events, donated by 905 farmers to 2,130 feeding programs. In Georgia, 1,185 volunteers handled 1.2 million pounds of fresh produce in 248 events. Food donated by 62 farmers was distributed to 85 feeding agencies. The Salvation Army in Tifton fed 55 families in December.
Participating farmers, Newman said, “are always surprised and pleased at the end of the year when we send them their donation receipts showing how many pounds we’ve been able to salvage. They may look at a field and not realize how much food is still out there, available to us through the work of our volunteers.”
For more information, contact Adam F. Graham or Sandi Newman at: [email protected] or go to www.endhunger.org or call 800-333-4597.