The Boston Area Gleaners is a 10-year-old organization dedicated to rescuing surplus farm crops for people in need through the work of their staff and many amazing volunteers. Food For Free is the largest recipient for the Gleaners’ produce, and distributed over 30,000 lbs of BAG-gleaned produce in 2013.
Describe a typical day for the Boston Area Gleaners.
Our work is seasonal by nature. From June through January (and even later) we are responding to farmers’ requests for gleaning, organizing volunteers, and then delivering to local hunger relief agencies. In the off-season, we are expanding our farmer and volunteer networks, and doing the work to support the organization, such as fundraising and developing our staff and board.
How do Food For Free and the Boston Area Gleaners work together?
Back in 2010, BAG was struggling financially. Food For Free’s then-Executive Director David Leslie suggested some changes in delivery procedures, and for that effort, rewarded us with a modest delivery fee, which many other agencies now pay as well.
Sasha is an even more enthusiastic supporter, realizing that our unique service provides critical nutrition to so many people who would otherwise go without. We have since realized a 300% growth in gleaning totals in the last four years, and Food For Free remains our largest recipient agency.
What’s the greatest challenge faced by the Gleaners?
With over 1,000 farms in eastern MA, there is literally tons of produce out there to glean, and our only constraints are in the infrastructure needed to do the work. We are increasing our fundraising efforts now in the hopes that we will soon have the means (staff, vehicles, and storage) to recover and deliver over 1 million servings annually.
What do you like best about your work?
There is no template for this work, and I like that. Gleaning operations need to be tailored regionally, considering factors such as proven need, the demographic profiles of farms, farmers, and the end consumer, geography, and weather patterns. It’s an interesting logistical puzzle to build that also provides a nutritional lifeline for thousands of people.