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Nonprofit gleans hope, food, for the state’s hungry citizens


story.lead_photo.captionAlliance Board President Cynthia Edwards on 11/20/2020 at Western Hills Park for HP Volunteer Story
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins) –
Picture by Cary Jenkins

Generally when a farmer harvests a crop, produce is left within the area. It could be as a result of it wasn’t able to be harvested, simply bought missed or wasn’t fairly good. To assemble what’s left behind is named gleaning.

The Arkansas Starvation Aid Alliance makes use of gleaning as certainly one of its many packages to cut back starvation by way of the Arkansas Gleaning Undertaking. Additionally it is how Cynthia Edwards, out-going board president of the alliance, first grew to become acquainted with the non-profit.

“I grew to become lively with the alliance as they have been beginning the gleaning program,” says Edwards, who can also be the state’s deputy director of agriculture. “They approached me to assist join them with farmers who could be excited about working with the gleaning program.”

This system brings in volunteers to farm fields and to the alliance’s 13 gardens unfold throughout 5 counties to gather what was not harvested. The alliance’s Watermelon Crawl is one annual gleaning occasion that gives enjoyable for the volunteers with dwell music, watermelon-eating contests and choosing watermelons and loading them for transport. One other is Turnip for Starvation, which has volunteers assist harvest turnips.

A latest weblog submit on the alliance’s web site famous the success of this yr’s harvests. “…the Alliance’s Arkansas Gleaning Undertaking has gleaned over 219,000 kilos of contemporary produce in 2020 — all by way of the arduous work of our gardening crew, Full Circle FarmCorps service members and 277 superb volunteers. That is equal to about 183,307 meals for Arkansans in want.”

“I believed it was a program that made sense for all concerned,” says Edwards about gleaning. “It helped feed folks and prevented good meals from going to waste. It is at all times been unhappy and ironic to me that we dwell in a state the place agriculture is the biggest business, and we have now a number of the finest and most devoted farmers on the earth, but many Arkansans go to mattress hungry every night time.”

Edwards joined the alliance board in 2015. “I used to be excited about being a part of the alliance as a result of it is the one statewide starvation aid company. I like its complete multi-prong strategy.”

Along with the gleaning tasks, the alliance has a charitable and emergency meals community by way of the six meals banks together with the Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock. The alliance companions with Share Our Power for the No Child Hungry marketing campaign which incorporates faculty breakfasts, after-school and summer-meal packages and Cooking Issues, educating households the right way to make low-cost nutritious meals. It additionally works with the AR Beef Undertaking and has Meals Help Assets and Senior Starvation packages.

There are other ways to deal with the issue of starvation, says Edwards, and the alliance takes a number of totally different avenues to deal with it with cooperative relationships with varied organizations, “by way of all town companions, state companions, nonprofits — it simply takes loads of outreach.”

Advocacy can also be a giant a part of the alliance’s work. “Kathy is a powerhouse in the case of working with our state legislature specifically,” says Edwards, about government director Kathy Webb. “It [the alliance] works with all ranges of presidency. The advocacy lately resulted in funding by way of the CARES Act Steering Committee for $1.7 million for meals for meals banks throughout the state.”

With covid-19, meals insecurity for Arkansans has elevated, says Edwards. “Earlier than the pandemic, our meals insecurity charges had fallen just a little bit to pre-recession ranges of about 17%. Since March that has gone as much as about 22.50%. That is even greater for youngsters.”

She explains that earlier within the pandemic, No Child Hungry’s teamwork resulted within the enlargement of college diet waivers so Arkansas youngsters may get the meals they wanted regardless of faculty closures. “The pandemic hasn’t slowed down the alliance crew one bit,” she says. “They pivoted their packages quickly and successfully, and have not missed a beat.”

On Jan. 9, the alliance will host Turnip for Starvation. Volunteers can be wanted to reap turnips from the alliance’s Western Hills Backyard at Little Rock’s Western Hills Park. The alliance has labored it out in order that contact for volunteers is at a minimal. They’ll do it the identical approach they gleaned watermelons final summer time, Edwards says. Volunteers will make a reservation for a sure time and can work in shifts. Temperatures can be taken and get in touch with kinds can be stuffed out. Then the volunteers can be assigned rows in order that they’re spaced out. Edwards says, “It is restrictive, however a protected exercise.”

For extra details about Turnip for Starvation and different packages of the Arkansas Starvation Aid Alliance, e mail [email protected]

org or go to their web site at www.arhungeralliance.org.

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