In my latest Eat Local America post, I talk about several initiatives underway in the Twin Cities area that seek to make locally grown, fresh foods available and affordable for more people. A couple of weeks back, I volunteered for one of these programs - Second Harvest Heartland's food collection effort at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
Second Harvest Heartland, a hunger relief organization, has three separate gleaning operations through its Giving Green initiative to gather fresh foods that may otherwise go to waste and distribute them to food shelves throughout Minnesota and parts of western Wisconsin. Their Food Rescue program collects foods from 215 retail grocers that may otherwise go to waste; each week during the growing season, they collect thousands of pounds of food at the Minneapolis Farmers Market; and during late summer and fall, they collect apples from area orchards through its Apple Gleaning program, which has gathered over 170 tons of fresh apples for area food shelves in the past three years of operation.
I had been involved in the Giving Green initiative at Minneapolis Farmers Market the year that it launched back in 2009 and wanted to help out again, since I think it's such a cool program.
Each Sunday during the growing season, Second Harvest collects fresh produce donations at the farmers market, brings it all back to their massive warehouse, then turns around and delivers this food to area food shelves all across Minnesota and western Wisconsin on Monday and Tuesday.
On a sunny August Sunday, I hauled box after box after box of fresh cucumbers, corn, greens and other local foods donated by market vendors over to the staging area where the Second Harvest Heartland truck awaited. Some vendors donated one box of produce; others donated several.
Market shoppers can also donate food or money for this program. When money is collected at the market, the volunteers turn around and spend the cash on food purchases from the market vendors to add to the stockpile. It was pretty fun for me to go around to the market stalls and purchase even more food for donation.
By the end of that Sunday I volunteered, the donations had added up to over 4,000 pounds of fresh food, which equated to over 3,000 meals for hungry families.
If you wish to get involved in this yourself, visit the Fellowship of the Fresh site and see how you can help. Many volunteers are required each Sunday to make this collection effort happen.
If you're not able to volunteer, you can still help out by publicizing this program via social media. The Mosaic Company has committed to donating dollars each time that someone likes Second Harvest Heartland on Facebook, comments on any post on the Second Harvest Facebook page, or tweets about the program on Twitter using the hashtag #getfreshforthehungry. It's that easy.