Rotary First Harvest | Harvest Against Hunger
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Harvest Against Hunger

Partnering with Rotary

05.04.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Farm to Food Pantry, Harvest Against Hunger, Rotary, Volunteering, Washington Site

Elk Run Farm grows fresh fruits and vegetables for the food banks of the South King County Food Coalition. The farm believes that residents of South King County should have equal access to local, sustainably grown, and nutritious produce regardless of income. The farm sits on a former golf course in the heart of the suburbs near Seattle, WA where the land would otherwise go unused. The farm helps to increase the availability of healthy foods for families that visit the food banks while promoting sustainable urban agriculture.

 

Elk Run Farm is currently in its third year with a Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) VISTA. There is one thing that all three AmeriCorps VISTAs have had a chance to participate in developing relationships with the Rotary clubs in South King County. Rotary First Harvest, with its many Rotary connections, did what it does best and connected the first Elk Run Farm VISTA and current farm manager to key Rotarians in its service area. This was the tiny seed of partnership that was handed to the farm and has continued to be cultivated by the second and third-year VISTAs, to this day.

When the first year VISTA came onboard, Elk Run Farm was not a farm. The land was still covered in golf course greens and had no infrastructure to distinguish it from the rest of the use-to-be golf course property. Tasked with the ambitious goal of starting a farm literally from the ground up, the initial VISTA and the farm manager approached the south King County Rotary clubs with a request for funds to build Elk Run Farm’s infrastructure. This baton was then passed to the second year VISTA. Together, they met with all twelve Rotary clubs in the service area of Elk Run Farm. After seeing how Elk Run Farm aligned with their motto, “Service Above Self” and the potential it could have to help the communities they live in, Rotarians stepped up and 11 Rotary clubs made a donation. The first and second VISTA collectively raised $36,500 through this outreach and relationship building.

 

Rotary Farm Sign

 

These funds were used to build Elk Run Farm’s irrigation system, hoop house, washing and packing station, and farm office. The farm manager always says, “This infrastructure is what really separates us from a garden.” They allow the farm staff and volunteers to efficiently grow and harvest produce at a level that brings in over 100 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables a week during the height of the growing season.

There are also other funding streams that Rotary provides to their community that Elk Run Farm has received. On top of the initial funds that were raised, the first and second-year VISTAs both applied for and received the Rotary’s Assistant Governor’s, Express Grant. This grant is meant to have a quick turnaround that gets financial assistance to the recipient promptly. $5,000 was raised from this method adding more support to Elk Run Farm’s infrastructure.

 

Receiving AG Express Grant

 

Individual Rotarians have also stepped up and used their personal networks to leverage resources for the farm. On behalf of the farm, Rotary First Harvest made a call to the South King County Rotary clubs to see if there was anyone that could provide a solution to Elk Run Farm’s deer and elk problem. The farm sits under high voltage power lines where all the vegetation is kept low for miles and miles on either side. This gives the deer and elk that live in the surrounding forests an easy way to browse and travel across the land. It also meant that the farm’s vegetables were fair game to these animals. A need for a barricade was made very clear one fall when a population of deer and elk ate all the produce in the ground before it was harvested. After hearing this dilemma, Mickey Kimmerlee, an Auburn Rotary member that works for Quality Fence Builders, was able to build and donate the labor and materials for a double-layer fence that protects the farm’s main vegetable field.

The third-year HAH VISTA continues to cultivate the Rotary relationship and is presently meeting with the clubs that donated in the past to update them on how their gifts were used. She emphasizes the impact their funds have had in jump-starting the farm, as well as how the food banks have benefited from the additional fresh produce they can now offer to families in their communities. The third VISTA is also pursuing a district match for the gifts that have been generated from the Rotary clubs in partnership with a Rotary First Harvest board member. She hopes that this match could provide one of the last critical infrastructure pieces to Elk Run Farm: electricity.

 

Mindy in trench

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Kitsap County’s Seed Library

29.03.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, Washington Site

Kitsap Harvest capacity building Gleaning Coordinator, Paisley Gallagher, serves at the Kitsap Public Health Chronic Disease Prevention Department. Nutrition is directly linked to many of today’s preventable ailments related to food intake such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, hypertension, mental health… although sometimes indirectly,  nutrition is just as much of the solution.  The department also works with SNAP, Youth Marijuana Prevention, Healthy Eating, Active Living, and a Farmers Market program called Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) which is responsible for Fresh Bucks.

The Kitsap Health Department applied for a HAH VISTA to work with community partners to help coordinate efforts and create a system to support local gardening. It is not the intention of Kitsap Public Health to house the future of the gleaning program but rather create a program and find partners willing to take on organized tasks while improving public access to information and participation.

System Development Around Increased Grow-A-Row in Kitsap County

The South Kitsap library, located in Port Orchard Library, has a seed library.  This seed library is an opportunity for community members to grab a small packet of 5-10 organic/non-GMO seeds of many varieties categorized A-Z. It’s also an opportunity to drop off unused seeds, typically packets with 30-50 more seeds than the person needed, for donation. This helps supply the seed library with variety, and many heirloom seeds. This meets the need for the low lying hum amongst people for more opportunities to have a seed exchange

After a meeting and discussion with the librarian, Paisley Gallagher, the Rotary First Harvest AmeriCorps VISTA discovered that this program is not widespread, but a great opportunity for education and increased awareness of growing produce for personal consumption and donation. She offered to “shout from the roof-tops” if a start-up and operational manual was created. The librarian had not thought about the benefits of sharing their program but instantly saw the benefit. Paisley then shared that the plant/grow-a-row program lacked metrics for its effectiveness. She proposed it would be possible to partner it with the seed library providing people information to grow another row for donation. From there they partnership could turn into a photo story showing people picking out seeds, planting and growing their row, and then a final photo of donating it to the food bank. The library loved the idea and plans to partner programs.

By being connected to many organizations focused on food production, the gleaning coordinator was able to connect the seed library with resources to help it tell its own story.  Due to this connection, the seed library is collaborating with local gardening groups to write a toolkit on how to develop and implement a seed library.  Their plan is to have a seed library in all of the Kitsap County libraries.   Along with a toolkit, the collaboration has increased to promotion and education on grow-a-row and information on local produce donations to food banks.

Many community organizations are working on similar agendas, however, they are not always aware of the other groups within their community.  By having a gleaning coordinator that is focused and dedicated to making these connections, Kitsap County will continue to normalize and strengthen local food production and increased local food donation.

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Rokula Farms Potato Glean- A Collaborative Effort

29.03.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, Volunteering, Washington Site

Kitsap Harvest capacity building Gleaning Coordinator, Paisley Gallagher, serves at the Kitsap Public Health Chronic Disease Prevention Department. Nutrition is directly linked to many of today’s preventable ailments related to food intake such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, hypertension, mental health… although sometimes indirectly,  nutrition is just as much of the solution.  The department also works with SNAP, Youth Marijuana Prevention, Healthy Eating, Active Living, and a Farmers Market program called Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) which is responsible for Fresh Bucks.

The Kitsap Health Department applied for a HAH VISTA to work with community partners to help coordinate efforts and create a system to support local gardening. It is not the intention of Kitsap Public Health to house the future of the gleaning program but rather create a program and find partners willing to take on organized tasks while improving public access to information and participation.

 

On a foggy March Saturday, over 50 local volunteers showed up to glean potatoes at Rokula Farms.  This glean was a collaborative effort from the Farmers, Gleaning Coordinator, community groups, and the South Kitsap Helpline Food Bank. By immersing in the culture of farming and growing in South Kitsap, Paisley Gallagher, the Rotary First Harvest Gleaning Coordinator, met Bob and Donna of Rokula Farms. These two farmers have 27 acres as a hobby farm and CSA opportunity for local residents.  Bob reached out to with a need to get potatoes out of the ground that had wintered over.  Unsure of the quality of the potatoes, the Gleaning Coordinator used her partnership with the South Kitsap Helpline Food Bank to connect with them about the quality and quantity of the potatoes.  South Kitsap was very interested in the potatoes and took their personal time to go out to the farm prior to the glean to approve the quality.

Bob and Donna from Rokula Farms

 

Once the connection was made, it took less than a week to round up the volunteers using online social media with the tagline, “Community Service You Can Eat!” Kitsap Harvest believes if a volunteer shows up to glean we are going to send you home with food, and donate the rest.  Social media delivered an all organic, non-paid reach to over 8,500 people, with 500 unique views, 168 people interested or going, and 55 shares as well as a connection to two other community groups:   My Sustainable City and Positive Olalla Projects.   The event organizers thought maybe 10 volunteers show up based on the 26 who said for sure they would, but boy was Paisley surprised when they kept flowing in for a family fun day picking potato gold from the ground!

 

 

Gleaning Volunteers

 

The glean was a success with 750 pounds of potatoes gleaned, lots of smiles, happy farmers, and happy food bank staff.  The gleaning coordinator realized that the successful glean was a by-product of months of collaborative efforts with farmers, food banks and community groups.  Without being a trusted community member, the glean would not have been so effective.

In the future, Kitsap Harvest will work with low-income housing groups to target people who may live in apartments, but not have room to grow food, this opportunity to do a little work in trade for access to fresh produce.

Gleaned Potatoes

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First Week In Tifton, GA

22.03.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site, Volunteering

Harvest against Hunger Americorps Vista Taylor Rotsted is serving as a gleaning specialist in southern Georgia at her Host Site, the Society of Saint Andrew (SOSA). The Society of Saint Andrew in Georgia has provided people in need more than 15 million pounds of salvaged potatoes and other produce through the Potato and Produce Project. This has resulted in approximately 45 million servings of food going to Georgia’s hungry. SOSA works with both volunteers and farmers to grow the Georgia Gleaning Network and glean fresh produce, reduce food waste and alleviate hunger throughout the state.

 

Getting your hands dirty takes on a new meaning when you’re gleaning. The work isn’t ‘romantic’, good photo ops are far and few between and volunteers are difficult to assemble (especially at 8 am on a weekday). Recruiting volunteers to glean is not like coordinating other community events. There are last minute changes and a degree of flexibility needed from volunteers that makes it difficult to coordinate with larger groups and organizations. Thankfully, Taylor discovered a good source of volunteers early on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taylor’s first week of service took her through the whole cycle of ‘feeding America’s hungry’. She harvested food from the field, distributed to agencies, distributed hand to hand, and worked at the soup kitchen to cook for and serve the hungry. She enjoyed helping people in need but the experience was also beneficial for connecting with potential volunteers and leads on new farmer donors. It’s similar to finding good workers in the private industry; if you can’t hiring within – see who your competitors have. Even though those organizations aren’t exactly competitors – sharing volunteers has been a beneficial practice. As they say ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’. Also, Taylor realized that many of the more involved volunteers are also the ones that Harvest against Hunger and the Society of Saint Andrews serve. With a unique volunteer opportunity like gleaning, recruiting in unique places is only logical.   

 

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AmeriCorps Week With Good Cheer Food Bank

15.03.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food Bank, Harvest Against Hunger, Rotary, Washington Site

This week (March March 11 – 17, 2018)  is AmeriCorps week. It’s also Good Cheer Food Banks Harvest Against Hunger’s VISTA’s second year serving in AmeriCorps.

Kelly’s first term was a year spent volunteering with American Youthworks; an Austin non-profit that builds out tiny homes at Community First, an initiative to house the homeless. They also work on home repairs through the city of Austin to fight gentrification!


This past year she joined AmeriCorps VISTA to leverage program management skills and dive deep into the food waste problem and inequities in our society that are at the root causes of hunger. Through this year at Good Cheer Food Bank she has been working as the gleaning program coordinator under a sponsorship through Harvest Against Hunger, a Rotary First created program, that places AmeriCorps members across the nation to connect local growers, and missing connections to their local food banks to see less food wasted nationally and get fresh, local produce to those experiencing food insecurities.

If you ever have questions about Kelly’s AmeriCorps experiences and are thinking of joining AmeriCorps, or just want to learn more contact Good Cheer Food Bank.  In 2018 alone, there are 75,000 members serving across America!

 
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Harvest For Vashon’s First Glean

07.03.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food Bank, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, Washington Site

Sam Carp is a Harvest Against Hunger VISTA and Harvest For Vashon Program Coordinator for the Vashon-Maury Community Food Bank and the Food Access Partnership on Vashon Island, WA. The Vashon-Maury Community Food Bank services approximately 1 in 10 people on Vashon, or about 1,000 people a year, and recognizes that one of the most serious needs its customers have is finding affordable access to fresh produce. As such, the Food Bank and FAP have teamed up to start three new programs on Vashon Island, all designed to increase food security and decrease food waste: a Gleaning Program, a Grow A Row Program, and a donation station at the farmer’s market. As the first year VISTA for these two organizations, Sam will facilitate the primary development of these programs, all of which are designed to increase the community’s access to locally grown, organic produce.

 

On Saturday, February 24th, Sam Carp, an Americorps VISTA and the Harvest For Vashon Program Coordinator, organized a glean of Northbourne Farm, a small, organic vegetable farm on Vashon Island. This was the first gleaning event of the Harvest For Vashon Campaign, and it was a great success! The gleaning team (Sam and four volunteers) was able to harvest almost 100 pounds of kale, chard, and salad greens within just a couple of hours! The produce was then brought to the Vashon-Maury Community Food Bank for distribution that week. Some of it was also given to Island churches for their community dinners, which are hosted every night.

 

 

As the programs continue the transition into spring, it becomes increasingly evident how much opportunity there is to discover sites of wasted produce on Vashon. Although it is a community that is well known for supporting smallscale, sustainable agriculture, a countless amount of fresh produce goes to waste for a number of reasons, just like in many other farming communities. With help, gleaning can be just one of many approaches that can be utilized to decrease the footprint of waste Vashon residents leave behind. This waste can then be used to support the food security of those very same people.

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Whidbey Island Community Collaboration

23.02.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food Bank, Harvest Against Hunger, Washington Site

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA Kelly Pinkley serves at Good Cheer Food Bank a nonprofit located on Whidbey Island. This nonprofit is really innovative in that it gets it’s funding from a variety of different things but mostly sustains on the funds they get from their thrift stores making a profit off clothing, housewares, and furniture that their community members donate to them. This sustainable funding has allowed for them to become quite the model food bank, hosting their own garden, apprenticeships, and gleaning programs. The gleaning program along side the garden efforts brings in nearly 30,000+ pounds of fresh produce into Good Cheer. As the first of a set of three sponsored HAH VISTA’s to be placed at Good Cheer; Kelly’s year as their Gleaning Program Coordinator has consisted of a lot of capacity building, community collaborations, new partnerships, educational awareness, and program marketing. 

Langley, WA is a really tight-knit community that is always looking for creative ways to bring everyone together, especially when it’s for a good cause. Good Cheer Food Bank has been a big part of the community for over 50 years starting out as a volunteer group providing “good cheer” to families that couldn’t afford to do so around the holiday season. It has since grown into a thrift store which then allowed them to afford the funds to provide a local Food Bank, Good Cheer Food Bank.

The HAH VISTA collaborated with different community partners to throw an event that raised up to 300 dollars for the food bank and had some 20 plus people in attendance which is pretty successful for a first-time event. Because Good Cheer has their thrift stores, the volunteers in the distribution center that sort the clothes out and price them set aside clothing they thought qualified as wacky, vintage, or just plain cool for 2 months prior to the event. This allowed for 3 racks of clothing available to choose from at the fundraiser.

The event was called Dress and Date. Community members were encouraged to bring a friend to dress up for the cost of 25.00 per couple which provided a fun new outfit for each to go home in. With the generous partnerships made in Langley: Prima Bistro & Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar offered 30% off dinner for the participants, Flying Bear Farm a local florist offered 25% off wearable flowers, and the local Arcade offered a percentage off Virtual Reality games and stayed open late. A lot of the participants were very excited for such a creative event that was for a good cause and fun was had by all.

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