Since it began two years ago, the Gleaning Program has salvaged 30 tons of fruits and vegetables for the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, which provides affordable food to150 local nonprofit organizations.
The program, developed by Emilio Casanueva, an associate architect at UCSB, coordinates volunteers who collect the extra produce from six farms throughout Santa Barbara County, as well as leftover produce from Santa Barbara’s Farmer’s Market, held on Saturdays. The food bank, located on Hollister Avenue, has been providing affordable food to those in need for 17 years.
Kate McCarthy, coordinator for the food bank, said the donated food is sold at the cost of handling.
“We’re not selling the food itself. We provide food for nonprofit organizations for the price of a handling fee. For regular food, the price is 14 cents a pound. The price for the produce is three to six cents a pound. The agencies come and are able to obtain food and distribute it to their clients,” she said.
Casanueva said he began the Gleaning Program after he worked at a local store and noticed how much food went to waste. Currently, the program has eight volunteers, but Casanueva said 20 would be ideal.
“Right now we collect fruit from six farms, but with more volunteers, there could be as many as 100 farms for us to glean,” he said. “The beauty of volunteering is how amazing it is to see a child’s face when they receive the food.”
Gleaning Program volunteer Aira Harris said the program is a way for local farmers to give to the community.
“I distribute the food to kids in Isla Vista. I encourage people to go to Children’s Park and see the children playing,” she said. “The food bank provides canned goods, but it’s also important to provide fresh produce to those areas where they need a lot of food. It’s hard because there’s a lot of areas where food is unavailable at a good price.”
McCarthy said the bank sells food to a wide range of agencies who then distribute it, including Isla Vista Youth Projects, Isla Vista Recreation and Park District, St. Mark’s Catholic Church, and the Salvation Army Hospitality House and Shelter of Santa Barbara.
“In Isla Vista there’s a lot of people that pay rent, facilities and can’t afford food. A lot of people assume that Santa Barbara is a wealthy area and they don’t realize it’s hard for a lot of families,” she said.
Casanueva said the Gleaning Program is a great way for families, as well students, to help out their community.
“I’ve done gleaning with families, it’s great fun. We work for about four hours a day,” he said. “I’m looking for anybody. Volunteers don’t have to work 30 hours a week; the schedules are flexible. They can work one day a month, or they can work every weekend.”
Those interested in volunteering can contact Emilio Casanueva at 893-2661, extension 2208.