Spending the day picking apples is a traditional autumn activity in New England. The fresh autumn air, the beautiful scenery, and of course there’s nothing like biting into a freshly picked, crisp and juicy apple with the perfect mix of sweet and tart. But for thousands of people struggling with hunger in Connecticut, fresh apples are not always on the menu.
One way that Connecticut Food Bank is able to provide fresh apples, and other produce, to people struggling with hunger throughout our six county service area is through gleaning projects. Now you may be wondering “what is gleaning?” Simply put, gleaning is the act of harvesting fresh produce after the farmers have harvested all that they are able to sell.
Local growers sometimes find that there is still produce in their fields after they have sold all that they can. As a result they don’t always harvest their entire crop, leaving perfectly good produce on trees and in fields. Farmers can put this otherwise wasted produce to good use by allowing Connecticut Food Bank to bring in groups of volunteers to glean the produce that is not harvested for sale.
One recent example of how Connecticut Food Bank can work with growers is the recent project at Hallock Orchard. Anthony DiBenedetto and his family, owners of Hallock Orchard in Washington Depot, have donated fresh apples to Connecticut Food Bank for several years; working with Food Bank volunteers to glean their orchard at the end of the harvest season.
This year the DiBenedetto family decided to donate the entire apple harvest. The result was an amazing 60,425 pounds of fresh apples. That’s about 483,000 apples!
Not only was this a fabulous donation, it was also a great volunteer opportunity. There were families, individuals, and groups from local schools, who all gave their time and effort to help others.
My family and I had the opportunity to participate in one of the weekend gleaning sessions. It was heartwarming to see how many people there were picking the apples that would ultimately be handed out to people in need. That day, in less than two hours, volunteers picked nearly 9,000 pounds of apples. By the time the last apple was picked, volunteers had put in more than 600 hours over a five-week period from September through October. I feel privileged to have been able to share in this experience, and to provide my 7-year-old daughter, Jordan, with an opportunity to learn about giving back and helping others.
As I consider the time, effort and resources the DiBenedetto family put forth through the year to maintain the orchard and then help the volunteers harvest the apples, and the hours and effort of the volunteers who came out to help, it seems inadequate to merely say “Thank you.” But I do want to express my gratitude on behalf of Connecticut Food Bank to all the volunteers who spent time picking apples and to the DiBenedettos for all their hard work and generosity.
Posted by Carolyn Russell, Product Donation Coordinator of Connecticut Food Bank