A paradox is among us – one in nine people struggle with hunger in New Hampshire, while around 1/3 of the food supply goes uneaten and wasted annually in the United States. Creative solutions are constantly being put to action, and gleaning is one way Merrimack County Conservation District is working to solve the problem. As part of the N.H. Gleans network, run by the N.H. Farm to School program, MCCD collects excess or slightly bruised foods from farms, gardens, and farmers markets that would otherwise be thrown away or composted. Gleaned food items are then donated to food pantries, soup kitchens, community suppers, and schools.
How is it done? Gleaning coordinators and volunteers connect with N.H. farms and make arrangements to conduct farm pick-ups, farmers market pick-ups, as well as directly assisting farmers in harvesting the crops. In 2014, during MCCD’s first year with the gleaning program, 9,633 pounds of produce was collected from nine partner farms and donated to seven local agencies. This year, with your help, we hope to expand even more!
Interested in helping? MCCD organizes volunteer crews to harvest produce from area farms. Not only is this an opportunity to help those in need within your community, but also to become an active part of your local food system. There are also volunteer opportunities for drivers to pick up and/or drop off donations to local organizations. Additionally, at several area farmers markets (Concord, Penacook, and New London), MCCD has a booth providing a basket for vendors to donate any food they may have left at the end of the market. However, we welcome donations from the entire community. Do you have an over-abundant garden this year, or just want to spare some of your goodies to help those in need? MCCD will readily accept your contributions. If you already have a garden, or are interested in starting one, there is the opportunity to participate in “Grow a Row.” Produce from that row is donated to help increase access to fresh foods within your community.
Making a difference in your community is easier than you think. If you are interested in helping families have access to local, nutritious food, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 975-0110. To see what we have already been up to this year, check out MCCD’s Facebook page.