Kentucky Interfaith Power & Light runs a program call Harvesting Hands which works to provide food to people in need.
Every year in the United States between 40% and 50% of all food that is produced and ready for harvest is wasted. That means that for every square mile of corn that is grown, every gallon of milk that is produced or animal that is raised an identical one ends up in the landfill. Not only is this wasteful but it places an heavy and unnecessary burden on the planet.
Food production has one of the largest harmful impacts on the environment through fertilizer and pesticide run off, soil erosion and emission of green house gases. A recent U.N. study found that livestock alone accounts for more green house gas emissions than the entire global transportation sector combined. In the mean time many of our neighbors who are dependent on food shelters for their meals struggle to find fresh, whole and healthy food on their plates.
Harvesting Hands is a volunteer based program that works to address both of these issues in Kentucky’s local food system by gathering (or gleaning) fresh excess produce and turning it into a valuable resource for our neighbors in need. They glean from both farmer’s markets and local farms.
Through this action they not only help to provide healthy food to those in need but they also honor the fossil fuel resources that are used in producing the food.
Often farmers or vegetable sellers overestimate the amount of food they need to grow or sell. Traditionally that food is trashed and then contributes to higher carbon emissions. The Harvesting Hands program helps to harvest that unused food by going to farms and picking the excess or collecting it from farmers markets.
Run by volunteers, Harvesting Hands reduces waste and is building a more sustainable food future.
Did you know that 40% of America’s food is wasted?
North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light partnered with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle program to help get some of that wasted food into the homes of people who need it most. In 2013, the Food Shuttle distributed over 7.1 million pounds of food that would have otherwise gone to waste.
In addition to food distribution, the organization works with schools to provide food to children from food-insecure homes. They also do door-to-door distribution of fresh produce and groceries to seniors.
By saving unused food from going into landfills, NC IPL and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle are helping reduce carbon emissions and combat hunger in North Carolina.
Church of the Wildwood, United Methodist Church in Chittenden, Vermont wanted a tactile way to connect to their community and reach out to their neighbors and positively impact their health and well-being. They came up with the idea of a “Harvest Table,” that would act as a space where members of the community could give what they could and take what they needed.
They set up the Harvest Table under a tent in the small front lawn in front of the church and put up a sign advertising that anyone could leave extra produce or unused seeds and seedlings. They also invited people to take what they could use for their own homes and gardens in order to supplement their diet or plant their own food.
In addition, they created a garden with a few raised beds and planted greens, herbs, beans and cucumbers along with tomato vines on the fence around their church. They added this to the offerings at the Harvest Table.
Word of the Harvest Table spread around the community in Chittenden and donations began flowing in. In corn season, people would buy a dozen ears from a local farmer, and leave half for someone else. During cucumber season, the table overflowed with people’s generosity. Members of the church would deliver the extra food to the local food kitchen each week.
Through the community garden and the Harvest Table, the church brought a sense of community to Chittenden and taught people about the importance of caring for both the earth and those in need.
University UMC is an urban church with a number of social justice ministries, including Open Door, a Saturday brunch for about 300 people experiencing homelessness. For many years, the church relied on volunteers to carry home recyclables from Open Door. But the church has expanded its recycling contract and added commercial composting service, and Open Door now runs trash free.
In its Cool Congregations Challenge entry, University United Methodist noted that it had composted more than 27,000 gallons of waste. The church has also quadrupled its recycling program as it works to serve vulnerable neighbors in the most healthy efficient, and environmentally sound means possible.
A core group of volunteers helps new volunteers and Open Door guests learn proper separation of recyclable and compostable waste. Congregants reported in their entry, “The composting and recycling program works because the homeless community embraces it. Not only does our Open Door program help connect local citizens from various backgrounds in a way that is eco-friendly, but it also empowers those who are experiencing homelessness to learn about and contribute to a deeper and more responsible relationship with our greater world.”