The ancient term “gleaning” is as relevant as ever. The word refers to collecting unharvested produce from farmers’ fields and distributing it to people in need. There are over 250 gleaning projects in the US and Hope’s Harvest RI is the state’s first. Gleaning is a win-win for both farmers and neighbors in need of food assistance. The process involves picking produce that was either missed by farm workers or which may not be suitable for selling in the market and distributing it for free instead of letting it go to waste.
Eva Agudelo, Hope’s Harvest founder and executive director explains, “We harvest fresh produce at about 37 farms of all shapes and sizes in Rhode Island and over the border in Massachusetts. We then distribute this food through our partners like the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and Farm Fresh RI. We’re all working together, using the resources that we have to make the most impact.”
And their work has made a huge difference since they first began in 2018 with nearly 400,000 pounds of food recovered and distributed to hunger relief organizations throughout the area. With a corps of volunteers, Hope’s Harvest RI collects surplus food from participating farms throughout the state. The nonprofit organization then transports the fresh vegetables to food pantries where visitors can take them home to make a healthy meal.
Sandy Holloway, a regular volunteer with the program shares the impact this work has had on her personally: “I’m a native Rhode Islander and my eyes have been opened to all the beautiful big farms and small farms all over this state that, if I didn’t volunteer for Hope’s Harvest RI, I wouldn’t even know they existed. The farmers are very welcoming and glad that we’re coming to do this work and at the end of the day, we’re helping – it’s a whole cycle – helping other people and I love it.”
In addition to picking up crops that would go to waste, Hope’s Harvest RI contracts with RI farm businesses to grow produce for the emergency food system and purchase surplus product, thereby strengthening the local farm economy while increasing food security for the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“Being able to pay farmers for product is really important,“ says Agudelo, “and making sure that they are aware that funding is available to help them. That is our commitment to supporting farmers as they help us do this important work of feeding Rhode Islanders.”
To learn more and volunteer visit HopesHarvest.org