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crop drop Tag

Sweet Potatoes for Days in Mississippi

30.11.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food Bank, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site, Volunteering

Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA Lindsey Shaw serves at the Society of Saint Andrew (SoSA), a non-profit connecting farmers, agencies, and volunteers to glean produce in Mississippi/Arkansas. In 2018, SoSA MS gleaned 2,751,580 pounds of fresh produce in 461 events, with 2,515 volunteers. Food donated by 74 farmers has been distributed to hungry people through 240 feeding agencies. 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. 

Every year, Southern Miss University puts on an annual Crop Drop during homecoming week to help feed their neighbors on campus and the surrounding community. Not once has this event worked out as planned! Last year our driver cancelled at the last minute. So, when life throws a curb ball, don’t freak out! Ask your community partners how to adapt to make it successful.

We are so glad that there are so many dedicated organizations in Mississippi that are committed to feeding their neighbors and communities. At this event, one difficulty after another presented itself as a barrier to us doing the crop drop, but our partners were dedicated to making it happen.

Our volunteer drove an 18-wheeler full of 20,000 pounds of potatoes almost 4 hours across the state to deliver at the drop spot, but arrived 3.5 hours later than anticipated. Volunteers started to fall off since the truck was late and other homecoming activities were scheduled. What were we to do with 20K pounds? That’s #sweetpotatoes for days…

At that point, a volunteer named Jim drove his forklift, volunteers and pallets from across town to help move things. What ended up happening was awesome! We ended up bagging 20,000 sweet potatoes in 1.5 hours. Due to a lot of our partners that came together, it was fast! People were overwhelmed by the response they received from their partners. People from all over the state Facebook liked, shared, and wanted to be involved, asking how they could help.

This one event is helping other non-profits grow and potentially get more food to their community. The video showing the results gave publicity and community awareness to the issues of hunger and highlighted those doing the work. It was a motivating force because of the unique situation. Jim found out the adaptation. He stepped out of his routine and helped by driving his fork lift 12 miles per hour across town! This video reached 2,500 views in one day, which isn’t going viral, but for the town of Hattiesburg, that’s a lot of people!!! People everywhere saw and that one video was worth all the hiccups. Sometimes we have to step back and measure our success in a different way. Things don’t always work out perfectly or timely but touching people and impacting lives is our ultimate mission.

It looked like a terrible day, but what ended up happening is that more people were available to help! Takeaway: You can’t get too bogged down when some things go wrong. You have to have faith in your partners that there’s a plan in motion for every obstacle when we work together.

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The Long Haul: Produce Drops and Hurricane Relief

09.11.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site, Volunteering

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.

Often times during a VISTA’s term, the capacity-building tasks can often seem like the boring ones. Crunching numbers, raising funds, logistics, and so on are critical to maintaining and creating programs but also far from entertaining. For SoSA Florida, some of this drudgery comes from produce drops.

A ‘drop’ is when a grower donates produce by the truck or pallet load, rather than a row in a field. Typically this product has already been harvested, and the task at hand is to facilitate transportation and placement. Bleh. However, powering through these doldrums can earn the highest reward.

HAH VISTA Elise Tillema and her host site, the Society of Saint Andrew, have coordinated several of these drops, each providing tons of produce and rewards. The Neena Eisenberg Potato Drop, for example, brought in over 10 thousand pounds of produce but also honored the memory of an ardent supporter and volunteer. In the wake of devastating hurricanes, traditional gleaning became obsolete. In response, SoSA Florida helped move 120 thousand pounds of produce to communities impacted by Florence. Forty-four thousand pounds of bottled water made it to the Panhandle in the wake of Michael, with another drop on the radar.  It is in times of crisis and joy that one must dig in her heels in and push. Working through seemingly humdrum tasks allowed Elise and her site to not only innovate, but expand their services for those who need it most.

 

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Jackson State University Sweet Potato Crop Drop

24.05.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, Mississippi, National Site

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA Andrew Frank serves in the Mississippi office of Society of St. Andrew, a grassroots, faith-based gleaning network that aims to provide food-insecure individuals with healthy produce. Society of St. Andrew was founded in 1979 in Big Island, Virginia and has offices in more than eight states across the southern United States. In 2017, the Mississippi office of Society of St. Andrew gleaned more than 1.9 million pounds of produce. During the rest of 2018, the Mississippi office hopes to increase its gleaning efforts and further develop its “fresh food drives” at farmers’ markets across the state.

 

In the early hours of April 10th, a dump truck pulled into a parking lot adjacent to Jackson State University (JSU) in Jackson, Mississippi and dumped its payload of over 15,000 sweet potatoes onto the concrete. These sweet potatoes, grown in Vardaman, Mississippi (“The Sweet Potato Capital of the World”), were the main attraction of the Jackson State University Crop Drop, a bi-annual event sponsored by Society of St. Andrew, Jackson State University and the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi during which free produce is distributed to those in need.

As early as 8:30 in the morning, cars began lining up near the entrance to the parking lot to receive one bag of sweet potatoes and one head of iceberg lettuce, which Society of St. Andrew had fortuitously gleaned and saved for the event the evening before. Meanwhile, over 75 JSU volunteers, clad in sweatpants and t-shirts, began assembling near the 30-ft. long pile of sweet potatoes to listen to directions from event organizers.

 

 

As cars were waved in to drive up to the curb to receive their free produce, volunteers worked as quickly as they could to fill their 34-inch red nylon bags with sweet potatoes. Although some cars only had one or two passengers, many others were filled to capacity with four or five adults, ostensibly because they lacked cars of their own, but could not afford to pass up on the opportunity for free produce. In a humbling display, some older local residents approached the pile of sweet potatoes on foot with their own bags, inquiring how they could receive their own portion.

In sum, 976 people received food during the event, including 206 who walked to the drop. In other words, over 1% of the food-insecure population in Hinds and Rankin counties (which contain the vast majority of the Jackson metropolitan area) received food from this three-hour crop drop.

The next JSU Crop Drop will be held in mid-August.

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