Special report by Mark Gunderman
Photo courtesy Julia Brizendine: What is gleaning? It is the harvesting of food for the needy. This tradition goes back to ancient times when landholders allowed folks in need to harvest left-over crops. In eighteenth century England, the sexton would often ring a church bell at eight o’clock in the morning and again at seven in the evening to alert needy families when they were invited to collect crops. As a volunteer, gleaning is a fun, family activity that usually lasts no more than about 2 hours on a beautiful day. It is also a good activity for groups who are looking for community outreach projects.
Feed Loudoun, a non-profit organization of Loudoun County, will host a county wide food drive of exclusively fresh fruits and vegetables August 9th through August 16th.
Individual gardeners, farm markets and farmers are asked to donate their surplus fruits and vegetables to participating food banks.
Following a successful 2013 gardening season Feed Loudoun donated over 24,000 pounds of produce to local food banks in an effort to provide fresh nutritious food to those in need in the community. Feed Loudoun is an associated volunteer network with the national movement Plant a Row for the Hungry established by the Garden Writers Association. The total of donations for the Feed Loudoun 2014 Harvest will be added to the national Plant a Row totals for the “20 by 20” campaign where the national goal is to have 20 million pounds donated by 2020.
Feed Loudoun is a uniquely community-based program designed to assist in feeding the hungry here in Loudoun County. Founded in 2009 by Julia Brizendine, the nonprofit is part of a national grass roots initiative started by the Garden Writers Association in 1995.
Feed Loudoun is comprised of individual gardeners, agri-businesses, farm markets and other community partners who donate their surplus fresh produce to help feed Loudoun’s hungry. Fresh food does not go to waste but instead is donated by volunteers in our community to those in need. The collected food is given to various food pantries throughout Loudoun County. Feed Loudoun donates 100% of the produce collected. To date, they have coordinated the donation of over 90,000 pounds of fresh produce to food pantries all over the county!
Feed Loudoun is an all-volunteer organization. What they need most is your time! However, they do have some modest expenses which have been covered primarily by individual donations and two small, start-up grants from 100 Women Strong and Farm to Fork. The focus is on food and volunteerism.
Are you a gardener? Could you plant an extra row or two for the hungry? Even if you have no more room in your garden, you probably have excess produce that goes to waste every year, right? Why not put it to good use? Food pantries stock mostly canned goods and other non-perishables because these are the easiest to distribute. However, good nutrition depends on fresh fruits and vegetables. Increasingly, food pantries are willing to accept fresh fruits and vegetables during the growing season. This helps conserve the non-perishable items so that shelves stay fully stocked during lean times in the summer season.
You can drop your own produce off at one of the listed drop-off locations. Or, if you have a large quantity of food, let Feed Loudoun know and they may be able to help with gleaning.
The Loudoun farms who donate regularly through gleaning:
Wegmeyers – Hamilton, VA
Quarter Branch Farm – Lovettsville, VA
Crooked Run Orchard – Purcellville VA
Willowsford Farm – Leesburg, VA
Potomac Vegetable Farm – Lovettsville, VA
What to grow:
There is no right or wrong when it comes to growing fruits and veggies for Feed Loudoun Plant a Row. What you want to consider is how long your fruit or veggie will last once harvested. Fruits and veggies with a longer shelf life tend to be more practical (like squash, zucchini, potatoes, beans, onions, carrots, and apples). Food pantries accept all edible fruits and veggies for distribution. You are certainly welcome to donate tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, melons, pears, peaches, herbs, etc. Please don’t limit what you grow or donate because it will all be consumed!
Some locations (not all) require that you call before drop off (see phone numbers in each listing).
Catholic Charities (Leesburg)
Martha Michael, Program Manager
12 Cardinal Park Drive SE,
Leesburg, VA 20175
Donation times: Monday – Thursday 9:30 am until 4:00pm
* Please call first
Lisa Lombardozzi, Executive Director
Bob Ashdown, Pantry Manager
Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church
46833 Harry Byrd Hwy.
P.O. Box 443
Sterling, VA 20167-0443
Donation times: LINK can accept produce donations anytime.
* Please call first.
Loudoun Interfaith Relief (Leesburg)
Jaime Rubinos, Manager of Operations
750 Miller Drive SE
Leesburg, VA 20175
Donation times: Monday – Friday 9:30am until 4:00pm Saturday 9:30am until 1:00pm
Messiahs Market (Ashburn)
Erika Huddleston, Community Life Executive Director
Sheri Toler, Pantry Manager
19790 Ashburn Road
Donation times: We can receive donations by appointment most any time the building is open: M-F: 8:00am until 6:00pm,
Saturdays we usually have a team here 10-Noon
* Please call first.
Seven Loaves (Middleburg)
Melanie Maloney, President
15 W Washington St
Middleburg, VA 20117
Donation times: M-W-F from 9:00a.m. to Noon or Thursday from 9:00am until 10:00a.m.
Donations preferred Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Tree of Life (Purcellville)
Brian McMullen, Executive Director
Linda Watkins, Pantry Manager Tree of Life Center
210 N. 21st St., Unit D
Purcellville, VA 20132
Donation times: Monday – Thursday 9:00am until Noon.