by Meredith Days
Welcome to our new series, where we will be posting a day in the life of different staff members with the Gleaners. Thank you to Kate Morse for being a good sport and letting me follow her for the inaugural post of this series :)
In order to really get the picture of what Kate does all day, I followed her around on a random Wednesday. Kate gets started around 8am each day (unless she has an early route) and hits the ground running. This day I followed her, there were low numbers for a volunteer food box pack, so Kate and I planned to hop on the line at 9am. Until the pack started, Kate helped prepare, and once the volunteers arrived, she was ready to go on the line wherever she was needed.
This is Kate’s third season with BAG—she started out as an Apprentice in 2019, stayed on as an Operations (or ops) Assistant in 2020, and is currently the Food Safety Coordinator! Her experience makes her a reliable member of the team – so when Emily, the day’s trip leader, had a last-minute appointment, Kate stepped in and smoothly continued the pack, helping corral the volunteers and staff to an all-time box pack record of 24 pallets in under 3 hours. For those of you interested in the numbers, each pallet holds 42 boxes, meaning that in about 2 hours and 45 minutes the small but mighty volunteer team moved over 1000 boxes of food!
Her flexibility is a skill and something that she has leaned into in her third season with ops. She does a little bit of everything and helps out where she is needed – doing driving (farm pickups and distribution), harvesting, packing for food hub orders, cleaning and sanitizing, forklifting, helping on grocery box packs (like this day) and just general chores.
During the off season, Kate’s work revolves around planning for the season, including making sure our food safety policy is up to date and our plans for food safety around different crops are in place. During the season (which runs from May to November), she trains all staff and makes sure everyone is up to date on food safety protocols, and does everyday tasks like checking temperatures, sanitizing bins, filling out food safety forms and giving the volunteers food safety talks before trips.
After a well-deserved break for lunch (vegetarian chili and cornbread – yum) we get back to the grind for the afternoon. Kate checks in again with Charlotte (BAG’s Operations Director) to see where she’s needed, and we head out to Siena Farms, a partner in Sudbury that donates produce for us to redistribute.
On the way we discuss her experience with the Gleaners, including her enthusiasm for the work she does. One of the great things about the Gleaners is that every staff member brings personal interests to the work, but we come together around a shared passion for reducing food insecurity and food waste. Kate’s motivation comes from interests in public health and the environment – she studied the behavioral determinants of health in college, specifically learning about the impacts of diet and exercise on chronic illness. After graduating, she was unsure what her dream job would be – she is passionate about reducing health disparities, increasing access to healthcare, increasing access to healthy food, engaging with environmental justice – so she decided she would focus on public health for her career and do environmental justice work on the side. In her search for jobs, however, she found the Gleaners, which she describes as “a perfect mix of her interests,” allowing her to stay engaged with her passions and work outside!
When we discussed her favorite memories of her time at BAG, Kate pondered for a while, saying that she has “a lot of moments after being out in a field when [she] really appreciate[s] not being in a cubicle and having an office job” at a time when a lot of her friends do. She loves that our work is “logical – it uses the problem of food waste to answer the problem of food insecurity, connecting the dots to alleviate both problems.” After a time, she settles on a classic story as her favorite memory with the Gleaners– a day that she spent driving around asking stores for banana boxes with her fellow apprentice Sam during her first season. They drove around all day long, taking over the Instagram story and making the tedious job of asking for banana boxes at grocery stores very fun (you can still watch their journey at @bostonareagleaners on Instagram today under the highlight “Kate + Sam”). Her favorite thing about her role with the Gleaners is a common thread in many of her answers: Kate loves her coworkers and the sense of teamwork in the workplace.
At Siena, Kate discusses the transfer and loads bins of produce ranging from mushrooms to arugula to tomatoes into the back of ‘Bessie,’ one of our box trucks. She handles complications with the grace and poise and patience of someone who has been to this pick-up a hundred times before (and she has). After the truck is full, we hop back in, discussing food-related media and time spent outside of work. Outside of work, Kate enjoys running, hiking, reading and spending time with her friends! She recommends The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, a book she read during her first season with the Gleaners that blew her mind. She also has a sweet tooth: her favorite ice cream flavor is B3 (brown butter, brown sugar and brownies) from Toscanini’s, and her favorite food-related show is Great British Baking Show.
We bring Bessie back to Stonefield Farm, and Kate has to rearrange pallets and some bins to make room for the new produce to be checked, sorted, organized and repacked for distribution. As the day winds down, she moves some stuff around with the forklift and helps with the cooler shuffle — moving produce around for optimal positioning for the next day. At around 6:30 pm, the ops day ends. Kate’s enthusiasm and energy remains despite long days – she wouldn’t want it any other way.
Boston Area Gleaners
91 Martin Street
Acton, MA 01720