Volunteers: We’re moving cautiously into gleaning season

A letter to you from Volunteer Coordinator Mariah Friend:

Dear After the Harvest Volunteers,

First, a thank you. Thank you for your dedication to feeding hungry people. For spending your weekends at the farmers market picking up leftover produce and delivering it to food pantries. Thank you for being our advocates. For rallying your families, faith congregations and co-workers to glean together. Thank you for getting up early on a Saturday morning and making the drive to a field, orchard or garden (often before the sun rises!) so that we can get the best, healthiest food to those who need it most.

You inspire us in good times and bad to keep doing the work. Now, we need you more than ever.

While many of us adjust to the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis by staying at home, one thing we know for certain is this: Hunger is not on lockdown. In fact, the threat of food insecurity is on the rise and those who are already vulnerable (seniors, children and those with underlying health concerns) are at greatest risk.

We are already responding to calls from local growers who have begun donating some of the first produce of the season, with plans to continue meeting the need. We are committed to doing the same. As of now, preparations for a full gleaning season with additional farmers market pick-ups is underway.

You can sign up now for our 2020 gleaning season. Right now it’s generally one or two people picking up from growers. In April/May there will be field gleanings but generally with a handful of people and then in June gleaning of 10-20 will kick in.

From the bottom of my heart, I’m asking you to step up to the plate so those in need can have something on theirs. But I know it is not without risk.

With the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, the safety and well-being of our staff, volunteers, partner agencies, growers and the people we serve are foremost in our priorities. We are doing everything we can to provide essential services while following the CDC and State Department of Health guidance for food safety, prevention and infection control.

As such, we are implementing the following for all After the Harvest volunteer activities:

  • Encourage staff and volunteers to stay home if they are not well.
  • Limit volunteer groups to ten or less.
  • Increase efforts to maintain the cleanliness of our workspaces, fleet and packaging, using proper disinfectant directions.
  • Continue to advise volunteers to practice good hygiene (e.g., cover your cough, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly), and take the necessary precautionary measures (e.g., avoid handshakes, social distancing when possible).
  • Implement 20-second hand washing, hand sanitizer application, or wearing food safety gloves before handling any produce or packaging.
  • Limit the number of people touching produce (when possible, the same volunteer should harvest, package and deliver the same produce from beginning-to-end.)
  • Minimize the number of people dropping off produce at an agency, and limit the duration of drop offs.

As the situation evolves, we will communicate any updates and make recommended changes as needed.

In times of crisis, we each have to evaluate our ability to respond and what that might look like. I know it will be different for all of us. Please know, if you can’t volunteer at this time, we understand and want to stay connected. Reach out, drop us a note and let us know how you’re doing!

You can also donate to our Hope & Health campaign to urgently meet the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables to be distributed in our community. Even $5 can help provide enough servings to meet the recommended dietary intake for one person for ten days.

We need each other to get through this and we will. I have no doubt we’ll come out stronger, braver and more unified in our mission to serve.

Thank you for serving with us.

In Gratitude,
Mariah Friend
Volunteer Coordinator
Registered Nurse, B.S.N.