Thursday, February 24, 2011


Glean: to gather grain or other produce left by reapers

Food Justice has been a passion of mine for quite some time. Many people I meet think of starving people in Africa if you ask them about hunger. That is not always the case. There are hungry people in America. A fair few of them are FAT! It is hard to look at someone who is pushing the limits of plus size and imagine them as a hungry person. However, these people are eating what they can to quiet the rumblings in their ballooning bellies. Crappy high calorie foods are less expensive and more available than nutrient dense foods. Many low income areas of cities don't have grocery stores within walking distance which makes access to nutritious food even more difficult. 

I was at one time obese. I wasn't poor, I just loved sugar. I had my epiphany, lost weight and in my arrogance thought I could save people by becoming a Dietitian. My first time shadowing an RD, a single mother of two came in. The RD asked about the children's diet. I could tell the mom was uncomfortable. At the end of the consultation, the dietitian recommended to the mother to add more fresh fruits and veggies to their diet. The mom visibly paled. It was then she looked straight into the eyes of the dietitian for the first time. "Where," she said, "am I going to get them? Are you going to come babysit and let me use your checkbook?" 

Just telling people to eat good things isn't going to make it happen. It isn't that easy. There is a way, though.

When I was working as an intern on an organic farm last summer, I had the opportunity to see just how much food is "not marketable" and would end up in the compost pile. This was not bad food. It just didn't have "symmetry" or "even color."  All I could think of was how picky the American consumer is if they wouldn't eat this wonderful food! I had already been working at the garden at the church, but this had the potential for something bigger. What if instead of compost it became dinner?

Turns out that there were people were already working to this end in town. In fact, a good share of what these gleaners were distributing was coming though my church! This group, Faith Feeds, would go the farmer's markets in town and collect from some awesomely generous farmers. Instead of taking the food home, these farmers gave what they had left. I have some serious respect for that! Also, an orchard here in town, allowed gleaners from Faith Feeds to go and glean fruit every week. 

To me the journey of homesteading is more about building community than providing enough for your family so you call wall yourself off. We're all in this together. You know all that squash you have to give away at the height of the season? See if there is a feeding program in your area that is willing to take it.

Plant a row of something extra for others. If you have a small area and can't grow for more than yourself, what about buying extra pears (they are easier for those with missing teeth) at the farmer's market to donate to a shelter?  


  1. I couldn't have said it any better. You are right on! Even though educating the public is important, food insecurities exist everywhere. Not only is it a financial and geographic problem, as much as it is a western problem. How can we alleviate this through policy? It is definitely great to do what you can as a community member, but do you know of any policies currently that are intended to alleviate food insecurities? :) Thanks chick!

  2. There are some government programs. I will post some links later if I get some time.


    I'm a bit of a cynic. I don't think policy will save us. I believe there are people in government who want to work towards the positive change, but the momentum is pushing the other direction.

    The local government in my city is allowing people use of public lands for gardening projections. They even have some grants avalable. However, the work towards actually alleviating poverty must be done by the community. We have to be the boots on the ground.

    Community building is so much a part of this because when we isolate ourselves, either by family, race or economic status, the "othering" that happens dehumanizes people of a different group and they become a problem. Our neighbors have problems with hunger so we have a hunger problem. We must work in common with our neighbors on this problem.

  3. I am loving this post. Here is something I do need to say. I am tired of women whining about taking kids grocery shopping. I have five kids and take them so they can see how to shop. Also, WIC now gives families vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables. Also, Food Stamps cover seeds, plants and trees for edibles. However, there are those who fall through the cracks, the "cash poor". Those who make too much for many of these programs, they need to learn about gleaning. We are a family of seven getting out of medical debt. I posted on the local Freecycle group to glean trees and got a tremendous response. There is so much fruit that falls to the ground that just goes to waste. Another issue is pride. Some people with hungry kids think they are above this.

  4. Button, I have never heard of food stamps covering seeds, etc. Is that something local where you are or is it national. If that applies in my area, I know of a fair few women that would be helped by this.

    Also, as to grocery shopping with children...

    The community I am with now has the lowest incidence of vehicle ownership in Lexington. They are smack dab in a food desert and it is HARD for some to make a real grocery trip happen. One dear friend has three children under four. The closest bus stop is nearly a mile away. By the time the bus reaches the store her kids are tired and so is she. Already the likelihood of success at the grocery is slim. Whatever she gets while there she has to pack back to her home while wrangling three little ones. As long as there are food deserts there will be problems with food access even with government programs.

    I'm sure they're out there, but I have never seen a mother of a hungry family too proud to accept help. I have known women willing to put themselves in danger to ensure their children eat. Not all of them possess the education to know what and how their children should be eating. They just want to quiet the rumblings in their children's bellies.

    Again, that is just my perspective based on my community.