Tahoe volunteers harvest 4,000+ pounds of food for Project MANA in 2015 | SierraSun.com

Tahoe volunteers harvest 4,000+ pounds of food for Project MANA in 2015

Special to the Sun

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Tahoe Food Hub started a "gleaning" program in July. Over the course of four months and seven harvests, volunteers have helped donate 4,000 pounds of produce to Project MANA from regional farms.

The most recent donation on Nov. 18 made it in time for Project MANA's annual Let's Talk Turkey Thanksgiving food distribution.

"Having a gleaning team has been a goal of the food hub from the beginning," said Susie Sutphin, Tahoe Food Hub executive director. "A lot of perfectly good food never makes it out of the field because the farmer doesn't have time to harvest it. With a team of volunteers, however, that perfectly good food can get into the hands of the people who need it most."

All farms in the Sierra Foothills were made aware of the service to have their fields gleaned.

Mountain Bounty Farm in Nevada City needs to ensure they have enough produce for their veggie-box subscription program, which can lead to surplus.

The Tahoe Gleaners, as they are now affectionately referred, were the perfect outlet to move extra produce. As it turned out, Mountain Bounty generously offered all seven gleanings.

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Harvests were abundantly diverse with peppers, carrots, corn, tomatoes, squash, onions, potatoes, chard, basil, melons and more.

"We've learned over the years that there's a huge amount of great food out there just going to waste that could help feed folks facing food insecurity in our communities," comments Brain Hunt, food supply manager for Project MANA. "We started by rescuing out-of-date food from the grocery stores. Partnering with Tahoe Food Hub and their gleaning program has now allowed us to distribute much healthier fresh produce to our community members."

For the gleaning to happen it takes a motivated and passionate coordinator to organize volunteers and make arrangements with the farm.

Fortunately, Tahoe Food Hub has Alex Herrera, a former Truckee Elementary PTO president and long-time Truckee local.

"Alex and I worked together on the Growing Domes for schools campaign. And this past spring, he reached out asking to get involved in other ways with the food hub. And I immediately thought of the Gleaning Team idea," Sutphin said. "Alex has been relentless in his pursuit to not let any food go to waste; sometimes driving down solo to pick-up food that a farm already has harvested and boxed."

Herrera says the idea was a slam-dunk from the beginning.

"It directly addresses the well-understood crux of the hunger problem, which is not supply, but distribution," Herrera said. "A socially conscious farm like Mountain Bounty wants to see its occasional and inevitable surplus of crops find its way to food pantries, like Project MANA and onto the tables of those in need.

"What they were missing was simply the means to get it from where it's grown to where it's needed, and that's where our team fits in."

The most recent gleaning was one of the biggest hauls of the season, weighing in at 1,000 pounds. It was filled with lots of great Thanksgiving fixins' — perfect for Project MANA's Let's Talk Turkey food distribution, including butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and potatoes.

Gleanings will start back up next summer. If interested in learning more, join the Tahoe Gleaners Facebook page, or email tahoefoodhub,org.

This article was submitted by Tahoe Food Hub, a nonprofit working to restore local, food distribution by building a regional food system for North Lake Tahoe. Visit tahoefoodhub.org to learn more.

More online

Visit projectmana.org to learn about Incline Village-based nonprofit Project MANA.

Visit mountainbountyfarm.com to learn about Mountain Bounty Farm in Nevada City.