Editorial: Helping those less fortunate to find food at harvest time is not a waste

Published: 8/23/2018 9:13:51 AM

We’ve all heard the proverb. “Waste not, want not.” And at home it’s generally good parsimonious advice. If you extend the concept of “home” to our broader community, it still applies, and that’s what we are seeing again this harvest season in Greenfield and Deerfield, in a way that benefits the less fortunate among us.

Greenfield’s Temple Israel for the second year is working with Atlas Farm of Deerfield to see that its unharvested crops go to the needy rather than to waste. The gleaning effort begins Sunday.

Gleaning, according to Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener, is described in the Old Testament as being when “the poor followed the reapers at their work, and gathered all the remains of the crop, both those that fell out of the hands of the reaper and those that escaped the sickle.”

More broadly, though, Cohen-Kiener says, it was prescribed as part of a social network that provided “a year-round safety net” and that’s what took root in Greenfield when the synagogue called together its members and those in the broader community to consider ways to share food-growing and food-preservation resources.

Cohen-Kiener coordinates a list of about 30 volunteers who have taken turns collecting surplus food on Sundays from Atlas Farm as well as from a participant’s backyard fruit trees. There’s an informal process for volunteers, in similar groups of maybe half a dozen, to come together to can, ferment, freeze or dry what they’ve gleaned.

The rabbi has made arrangements to use the Stone Soup Cafe’s kitchen at All Souls Unitarian Church, with the kitchen at the new John Zon Community Center as a backup.

This summer, said Cohen-Kiener, Atlas has asked for gleaners to collect produce just as it’s about to be plowed under, “so it’s likely we’ll get less variety but more volume.”

The network of gleaners and processors, who numbered about 20 last year, have relationships with various charitable outlets, including the Salvation Army, Stone Soup Cafe, and Oak Courts apartments, and enough processors have the necessary “ServSafe” certification to distribute the food to outlets like the Center for Self Reliance and the Community Meals Program.

They’ve fermented cabbage, canned beets and tomatoes, made applesauce, done a little dehydrating, and can do flash freezing.

Cohen-Kiener has lined up the kitchens and has reached out to Oak Courts to see who might want to take food preservation classes and join in the gleaning.

Temple Israel and its volunteers, and Atlas Farm, deserve recognition for putting together this effort. Good food isn’t wasted, but instead helps the needy. Maybe the idea will spread among other groups and farms in Franklin County. We don’t doubt there’s plenty of need but also plenty of generous people perhaps waiting in the wings, willing to help – including folks who could use the free food and are willing to help pick or process it themselves.

It has been said that God helps those who help themselves. But it is also nice to see generous Greenfielders reaching out to help as well.


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