FEDERALSBURG — The Maryland Food Bank continued its 40th anniversary celebration Monday, July 15, when volunteers gathered to glean cucumbers from a Caroline County farm to be distributed to people across the state.
The gleaning — in which volunteers from both the food bank and Perdue Farms picked up cucumbers cast off by mechanical harvesters because they were too small or large for pickling — is part of Farm to Food Bank, a program implemented in 2011 to gather produce for donation, and the current focus of the Food Bank’s 40-week anniversary celebration.
Also helping with the cucumber gleaning Monday were Jim and Jan Perdue, of Perdue Farms, and honorary co-chairmen of the food bank’s “It Takes More Than Food to End Hunger” campaign; and elected officials Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, and Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot.
“We’re delighted to be a part of this,” said Jim Perdue.
Most of the more than 50 participating farms in the Farm to Food Bank program are on the Eastern Shore, said Carmen Del Guarcio, president and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank.
Those farms donate a total of about 3 million pounds of produce every year, he said.
Hay Jay Acres Farm, owned by Harry and Janice Nagel, where the cucumber gleaning was held Monday, was one of the first to sign up in 2011 when Amy Cawley, Farm to Food Bank coordinator, began recruiting donor farms.
“It’s a common sense solution to trying to help other people,” said Harry Nagel, noting the Food Bank arranges everything, from the volunteers who collect the produce to transportation and distribution.
Del Guarcio said the program is a way for farmers to make sure all of their hard work gets put to use while increasing access to nutritious fresh produce for Marylanders who either cannot afford it or live in a “food desert,” where it is unavailable.
It is a logistical challenge to distribute the donated produce to people within 48 hours, Del Guarcio said, but it is accomplished through local partners who arrange times and dates for “mobile pantries” to stop by.
Of the more than 750 mobile pantry stops statewide that occur in a typical year, Del Guarcio said, most are held at regular intervals, typically once a month. One-off stops may be held in response to emergencies, like the recent government shutdown, that could affect people’s ability to buy food.
As the Maryland Food Bank prepares for its next 40 years, Del Guarcio said, it will aim to not only feed those in need, but to also find and address the root causes of hunger.