Hunger in America: Working to Feed the Nation's Poor

Grassroots volunteer hunger relief organizations are cropping up nationwide, including Project Glean, the Damiano Center, and Blue Ridge Food Bank—find out what you can do to help.

| November/December 1989

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    Food banks distribute food to agencies that feed the hungry. Children make up 40% of the nation's poor.
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    Glean picked a quarter of a million pounds of produce in 1989 for a local food bank.
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    Volunteers for Project Glean salvage apples that would otherwise be left to rot. Inset: pruning makes remnant orchards more productive
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    Food banks receive pallets of "brights"—cans with no labels. Volunteers sort and label them by code number.

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In California, a group called Dieters Feed the Hungry collects food from people who worry about eating too much and donates it to people who worry about eating at all. At the farmers' market in western North Carolina, farmers give each day's unsold produce to local shelters. In Idaho, wildlife officers deliver illegal game kills to organizations that feed the hungry. In a New Hampshire church, worshipers fill the collection plate with letters to Congress urging full funding of an antihunger program.

In communities across the country, people have looked at hunger in America and have decided to take it personally. With no particular experience, they've organized everything from food pantries to soup kitchens to citizen lobbies working for change in public policy. They've also come up with innovative ways to help.

Project Glean

Concord, California

Project Glean owns one eight-foot flatbed truck, one crew-cab pickup truck, 16 orchard ladders, and assorted boxes, buckets, and picking bags. Thus armed, Glean skirmishes with hunger in the most populous state in the nation.

Nobody's laughing. In 1980, its first year of operation, the project distributed 20,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to hungry people in Contra Costa County. In 1989 it expanded its territory to San Joaquin County and its harvest to well over a quarter of a million pounds.

To glean is to gather food left in the fields or on the trees after harvest—hence the name. Volunteers follow mechanical and human harvesters into the fields, orchards, and backyards of central California to salvage onions, eggplants, corn tomatoes, plums, nectarines tangerines, lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, and pomegranates for the local food bank.


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