Second Harvest Gleaners takes community food county-wide

Published on Thu, Mar 20, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Second Harvest Gleaners takes community food county-wide

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Take a glimpse into the back room of Video Impact in Birch Bay, and you�ll see rows of produce, breads and dairy items. This room is home to Second Harvest Gleaners, a county-wide food reclamation program.

�Gleaners is about food reclamation,� president Lori Furman said. �It started as a group of us that were gardeners and had leftovers and wanted to share.�

The art of gleaning began thousands of years ago as an honorable way for non-land owners to provide for their families, Furman said. After the harvest, farmers allowed people to gather the remaining produce, as a way to assist families in need and also reduce the amount of wasted food.

Second Harvest Gleaners started about a year and a half ago in Furman�s garage, and quickly grew, bringing together farmers, gardeners, and supermarkets who donate all kinds of produce.

�Within two months, we had 60 members and then within four months we had 100 families. And then it grew leaps and bounds, just really quickly,� she said.

The members pay dues of $40 per year, plus work six hours per month. �The greatest things about this is the members,� she said. �These are people who want to come and work for what they take. They�re amazing.�

A lot of the members, she said, are from families within the local community and county who have a moderate income, but aren�t on welfare. �You can only share so much,� she said. �We have members from every walk of life. And then we donate what�s leftover to a food bank.�

Members are not screened, and their income is not an issue. Everybody does the work.

Among the stores and grocery chains that contribute food are Food Pavilion, Safeway, Bellingham Grocery Outlet, and Totally Chocolate.

�Every once in a while we�ll get a call from Totally Chocolate and it�s so fun. The last time we got a call, everyone was so excited,� she said. �And it was cranberry and applesauce and it was so funny because people were like �where�s the chocolate?��

Although the rare occasions of chocolate are sweet to the members, members are mainly looking for fruits and vegetables, and exotic foods. �We�re really healthy here because we eat veggies and fruits that we normally wouldn�t try,� said Chrystine Eddy, of Custer, noting she fries cactus that has been sliced. �It�s just a great program. We take a lot of pride in what we do,� she said.

Besides groceries, Second Harvest Gleaners also does bulb buying and field gleaning, involving people from all over the county, including Everson, Bellingham, and Sumas.

Second Harvest Gleaners is open on Mondays and Saturdays, 10 to 11:30 a.m. and Thursday 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. People can make arrangements to pick up at another time, Furman said.

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