By Izzy Gray, Summer Intern
One of my favorite parts of my internship with Boston Area Gleaners has been heading out into the fields to witness the day-to-day operations of the gleaning program. Each time I go gleaning, I am consistently amazed by the energy and dedication of the volunteers. They keep the organization running and, with their help, we were able to harvest 421,167 pounds of fresh veggies in 2016.
Our volunteers come from diverse backgrounds and have various motivations for gleaning. This summer I have had the pleasure of talking with a number of our most dedicated volunteers about why they volunteer with The Gleaners. Across the board, our volunteers clearly enjoy the combination of being outside and doing meaningful work for their community.
Pamela Herndon explained that volunteering “is a beautiful way to get out into nature and interact with food in its natural state. […] With a simple sacrifice of a few hours of free time, a volunteer can bring fresh, nutritious food to those who are hungry.”
Sally Thompson commented on the reward of performing a direct service to people in need: “I was on my hands and knees with other like minded volunteers harvesting food which would be provided to those in need. And I was involved in a process that reduced food waste. The personal reward is immense for me.”
For some, the urge to fight hunger is deeply personal. Jonathan Pilch explained how his experiences growing up inspired him to give back: “I'm only 29 years old right now, so my memories of having to travel to our local food pantry in my hometown of Lynn, MA are still fresh in my memory. We didn't have a ton of money lying around when I was kid, so we were forced to rely on the pantry from time to time. It's because of those who donated to our local food pantry that I get encouraged to help pay it forward.”
Gleaning can also be a great way to bring together friends, families, and co-workers. Brad Tomlinson notes, “Anyone interested in volunteering should understand that it is hard work under sometimes less than ideal combinations of weather and field conditions. While there is a lot of bending, kneeling, squatting, lifting, and walking involved, there is no pressure on volunteers to do more than they can handle; therefore, there is no reason for a healthy person of any age not to give it a try! Volunteers should know that their safety and condition are important to the gleaning coordinators.”
Last year we had 310 volunteers. Boston Area Gleaners depends on these passionate and dedicated individuals to grow and expand its networks of farms and recipient agencies. Next time you find yourself with some free time on your hands, grab a friend (or two!) and head out into the fields to enjoy a few hours outside while making a positive impact on your community.