For two years before moving to the Boston area, Sarah Bither, 27, lived in Japan where she taught English and soaked up the local ethic.
“They’re very against waste. You use everything. You don’t throw anything away,” she said with admiration. “And also, they don’t really do prepared foods: everything is fresh.”
So when Bither, a product manager for a financial tech start-up, relocated here she began looking around for like-minded people, and that’s when she first learned about BAG—at an expo on volunteer opportunities. As she was about to leave, empty-handed, something caught her eye.
“The gleaners had this great sign…about food,” said Bither. And the next thing she knew a man at the table was telling her all about how much food gets thrown out each year and what BAG does to tackle the problem of waste in a hungry world.
“I thought that was absolutely fantastic,” said Bither, who has been a committed BAG volunteer ever since. “It is not a supply problem. It’s a distribution problem.”
She found the stats staggering: “They rescued like 500,000 pounds just from farms within a one-hour drive radius from Boston…This is the stuff you would pay an arm and a leg for in Whole Foods.”
Now an evangelist for the cause and in her third season of gleaning, Bither tells everyone she can about BAG. “I love talking about the gleaners,” she said.
For busy people who want to help tackle hunger, but don’t have a lot of time, BAG makes it very easy to head to the fields for a few hours of harvesting with other volunteers.
“They send out one email a week that lists all of the trips in all of the locations, all the times, and all the crops, and if it suits your schedule, you can pick one, you can pick several,” said Bither. “It’s super low-commitment. No spam.”
Her first trip was a bean-picking expedition—a good one to start with as the beans were growing in such abundance that harvesting them was not much harder than sitting in a circle with other volunteers and filling boxes, said Bither.
“If you’re digging potatoes with a shovel, that’s more intensive,” she added. But trip leaders are attentive to everyone’s energy levels, and if team members start to get tired, the leaders will find something else for them to do, said Bither.
Since she doesn’t have a car, Bither, who lives in Somerville, depends on others to give her a ride to the fields—a challenge she knows some fellow gleaners are facing was well.
But Bither has found a way around that hurdle. Having made friends with other volunteers, she just sends her buddies texts, finds out who’s going on which trips, and catches rides with them.
Aware of the car issue, BAG recently created a Facebook group where volunteers can self-organize carpools. Additionally, enough people have offered to drive that BAG is now able to offer carpools on about one out of every four or five trips it organizes. When volunteers sign up, they can look for the trips with carpools.