Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA Elise Tillema serves at the Society of Saint Andrew (SoSA), a non-profit connecting farmers, agencies, and volunteers to glean produce in central Florida. In 2017 alone, SoSA saved 28,561,789 pounds of produce (86 million servings) with 37,482 volunteers at 5,960 events. Formed in 1979, SoSA serves the states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, North & South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia with additional gleanings in the Midwest. In 1995, the Florida Gleaning Project was launched to coordinate gleans and saves over 2 million pounds of produce each year statewide.
Sowing the seeds of change starts at the roots of society. If we seek to end hunger and poverty, arming our youth is the first step. Fostering these relationships can sprout new ones, and introduce positive change into an otherwise challenging system.
An example of this cultivation is East Ridge High school. Located in Clermont, Florida on the outskirts of Orlando, East Ridge has approximately 3,000 students. At first glance, nothing immediately strikes the passerby as remarkable. But past the soccer fields and outbuildings lies a 10,000 square foot garden and classroom. Here teachers, students, and community members work to not only teach, but empower and feed.
Harvest Against Hunger Americorps VISTA Elise Tillema and her host site the Society of Saint Andrew have joined that mission, caring for the garden in the summer months. Students and staff grow organic produce such as eggplant and tomato, in addition to caring for cattle at the facility. Not only do students learn on the field first-hand, but the produce grown goes back into their community. During the school year, East Ridge pupils take home the fruits of their labors free of charge. However, during breaks there are no students to tend the fields, and the crops went to waste. So over the summer months, SoSA took the helm to distribute over 2 thousand pounds food for the needy at local agencies. This collaboration culminated in a local news story, and continues to this day.