Students, farmers donate leftover harvest to feed needy
Gianna Santelli, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, walked through Giamarese Farms on Wednesday in search of apples to donate to Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen.
“Food isn’t a right. It’s a product. A lot of people work really hard to produce it, and it wouldn’t be fair if it was just given out,” Santelli said. “[But] I do think it’s the duty of the middle class to give back to the community when they can.”
The University partnered with the farm for a day of gleaning, a practice that started with farmers leaving a small portion of their crops for the poor or disadvantaged, said Diana Brown, director of the Office of Community Engagement for the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Brown said gleaning originated more than 100 years ago, and at that time it was up to the poor to glean the farm themselves.
At Giamarese Farm, Jim Giamarese co-founded Farmers Against Hunger, an organization that provides about 1.5 millions pounds of food a year from left over crops, said Brian Strumfels, a Farmers Against Hunger employee.
Brian Strumfels works directly with farms and restaurants, like Panera Bread, five days a week to help maximize donations to soup kitchens, he said.
For 15 years, his organization minimized produce waste by donating to local soup kitchens and food banks in New Jersey, he said.
Brown said the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences began working with the farm about two years ago. It was originally meant to promote faculty and student interaction, but became an opportunity to contribute to the community.
“Last year during the gleaning, we came in and Jim Giamarese led us to a field of beautiful peppers,” she said. “I asked, ‘Why are you donating these peppers if they’re perfect? Why are you not selling them?’”
Giamarese explained there was an incoming frost and if the peppers were not picked soon, they would all be ruined. This resulted in a large pepper donation in 2010 to Elijah’s Promise, she said.
Alpha Zeta, an agricultural fraternity at the University, attended the gleaning for 14 years, said Amanda Hannen, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.
“This isn’t just a regular volunteer event. You learn so much while you’re here,” she said.
Hannen, a chancellor for Alpha Zeta, said it is a perfect outlet for volunteering because they not only get to give back to the community, but also learn about proper harvesting methods.
Jack Rabin, associate director of farm programs at the University, also thinks the gleaning is an educational experience.
He brought nine students from his sustainable agriculture class to the gleaning. Together, they collectively gathered 40 seven-pound bags of collard greens, a vegetable high in iron and Vitamins A and C.
Rabin said his students collected enough food to feed three meals to 150 families.
He asked his students whether food is a right, and after an extensive debate five said yes and four said no. But nearly all of his students believed gleaning is a good way of minimizing waste.
Santelli said it would not be right to waste hundreds of pounds of food when there are hungry people in need during the fragile state of the economy.
Although it would not be economically possible to feed every hungry person throughout the country, it is important to donate as much as possible, she said.
About 25 students attended the gleaning this year, helping donate apples and collard greens to Elijah’s Promise.