What is the Arkansas Gleaning Project?
The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (the Alliance) and the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) have partnered to form a gleaning network within the state of Arkansas. Gleaning is the biblical practice of hand-gathering crops left after harvest. The Alliance and SoSA volunteers glean fields and orchards donated by growers. The produce is then given to food banks, local pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters that feed or distribute food to their neighbors in need. The Alliance and its members serve over 900 hunger relief organizations in all 75 Arkansas counties. The cost of operating the Arkansas Gleaning Project averages less than 3 cents per pound of produce, and there is never a charge to the feeding agency or relief organization.
Partnerships are Key
In order to build and maintain a successful network of growers and volunteers, the Alliance and SoSA are always reaching out to other organizations. In the initial planning stages of the project the Farm Bureau of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Services, Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Justice for Our Neighbors, the Office of Governor Mike Beebe, the Office of Senator Mark Pryor, Arkansas Coalition for Excellence, United Methodist Conference, and Winrock International were important interests lending their support to our efforts. Additionally, the partnership between the Arkansas Gleaning Project and the Arkansas Department of Corrections has proven very successful in increasing the pounds of produce gleaned throughout the season.
A Bountiful Harvest
Since the project began in May 2008, through August 2012, the Arkansas Gleaning project has gathered more than 3 million pounds of fresh produce. Because of the generosity of farmers and volunteers, Arkansans in need have healthy, nutritious items like fresh corn, cabbage, squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon and tomatoes that might otherwise not be available to them. And thanks to a grant from the Arkansas Agricultural Department, the Alliance is now providing printed nutrition information sheets with storage requirements, cooking recommendations and recipes to those who receive gleaned produce.
Be Part of the Solution
The Alliance and SoSA have only scratched the surface of fields in our state that could be available for gleaning. With rising gas and food prices and declining donations, Arkansas’s food banks need this local source of food to help meet the ever rising need. If you are an Arkansas grower, your unharvested produce could be the solution to increasing the quantities of food we need to feed the hungry of our state.