By Jim Callier
Welcome back from Thanksgiving week. And what better way to welcome you back then with some leftovers, perhaps more accurately a second helping. Before the Holiday I shared with you a blog entry about efforts here in Kansas City at “gleaning.” Here in Kansas City, the Society of St. Andrews – West, or SoSA-West, was organizing a “gleaning” event to donate all of the food to pantries, shelters and other organizations that feed people. Gleaning, is where a farmer opens up his fields after the harvest to individuals and organizations to gather food that remains in the field for use, leftovers if you will. We contacted SoSA and they agreed to join forces by signing on to EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program.
The plan was for the actual gleaning to begin on Sunday, November 3rd and continue for four days, weather permitting. This was great timing as November 15th was America Recycles Day, our annual opportunity to raise national awareness of the importance of recycling and a great way to highlight gleaning. After all, isn’t putting food to a better use than tossing it in a landfill or leaving it in a field an excellent way to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle? With the date settled, I contacted the USDA to join in the effort. This past June, EPA and USDA had also joined forces to conquer the issue of wasted food through the US Food Waste Challenge. USDA offered to assist with publicizing this effort as an example of a community activity that promotes food recovery and reduce food waste while feeding the hungry.
In the week leading up to the 3rd, numerous local organizations donated pallets, heavy-duty packing containers, heavy equipment, equipment operators, and volunteers to fill logistical needs. All of these organizations pulled together to ensure success of an activity that is good for the community (reduces hunger and feeds people), good for the economy (recognizes the value of the crops and investment a farmer has made) and good for the environment (reduces waste and greenhouse gas production from decaying waste).
As the weekend began, the weather forecast did not look good for gleaning and SoSA – West made the call to glean only on Sunday the 3rd. However, on Sunday, over 1,000 volunteers arrived to help glean, filling the numerous large corrugated containers lining the roads at the farm. The volunteers collected an estimated 250,000 lbs in only one day of gleaning! The next day, more volunteers and organizations loaded the containers of produce and bushel sacks into trucks ready to deliver. Good thing because the rain came Tuesday as forecasted! Stay tuned for more, and to find out what happens next on our gleaning journey!
Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.