Rolling Harvest celebrates a decade of fighting hunger

    by Lisa DeAngelis

    Rolling Harvest Food Rescue celebrated 10 years of fighting hunger in Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania and Hunterdon and Mercer Counties in New Jersey through partnering with local farmers to feed the hungry on October 8th at Gravity Hill Farm, their donation fields and regional food access hub in Titusville, New Jersey with activities for all ages and farm-fresh eats.

    For the last decade, the food rescue has worked to increase access to donated food to area hunger-relief sites that serve at-risk, food-insecure populations by providing local farmers and food producers with free, effective delivery and distribution of their surplus.

    Cathy Snyder, Founder and Executive Director, says, “Food is often the first area where families are forced to make budget cuts. We are committed to helping our partner sites provide better and healthier food choices for these families. Recipients include food pantries, domestic violence shelters, low-income senior centers, children and family shelters, and low-income adults with health challenges. 32% of those assisted are children. 12% are seniors. All of them are our neighbors.”

    Cathy, a Philadelphia native, began her social impact journey after noticing the depth of food insecurity while volunteering at a local food pantry in New Hope. She came to appreciate the irony of people going hungry in an agricultural community and was determined to do something to fill the nutrition gap faced by food pantries, organizations whose limited budgets and growing customer base made it ever more challenging to provide nutritious, high-quality food to the people who sorely needed it. She got the idea to reach out to local farmers. From an initial connection between one food pantry and one farm, Rolling Harvest Food Rescue is now a vibrant network of volunteers, farms and food producers, and hunger-relief sites. Snyder is committed to raising awareness about the hidden face of local hunger, hidden but existing nonetheless, in communities that may seem affluent. She is also committed to raising awareness about how much food can easily be wasted without the intercession of food rescues like Rolling Harvest.

    Volunteers help with daily pick-up and delivery schedules from 43 farms, assist with weekly distributions to more than 80 hunger relief sites, and glean directly from their farm partners’ fields. Gleaning refers to the act of collecting leftover, crops from farmers’ fields to feed the hungry, a practice referred to in the Bible: “And when you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner residing among you.” Modern day gleaners work to harvest, preserve, and distribute unwanted food by collecting crops left in fields that have been mechanically harvested or from fields that wouldn’t be profitable for farmers to harvest, and might otherwise be left to rot and plowed under.

    Volunteers also have branched out to conduct weekly Nutrition Education Outreach with Free Farm Markets at some of the sites to educate recipients about nutrition, cooking and using the donated produce to their best benefit with no waste.

    With more and more local farmers and food producers joining their efforts, Rolling Harvest is well on their way to ensuring another year of tremendous growth and significant increases in both the number of people they are helping and the amount of produce they are sharing. They have already exceeded three million pounds of locally grown fruits and vegetables, and organic meats, which translates to more than 12 million additional servings of healthy food  and 34,000 people served monthly throughout the harvest season.

    There are a number of ways to help:

    For farmers with surplus produce, meat, or dairy, Rolling Harvest has a quick response Glean Team.

    For food pantries wanting to transition to farm markets, Rolling Harvest will assist free of charge.

    For volunteers, Rolling Harvest works with a wide variety of corporate, faith-based, youth and community service groups, as well as individuals.

    For donations, remember that just $36 buys an oil change for their delivery van. $72 buys a tank of gas to deliver fresh produce to a food pantry.

    “Turning food pantries into farm markets remains the goal,” according to Cathy Snyder. “With your continued help and support, we look forward to impacting even more lives in 2022 and beyond.”

    PHOTO CAP: Volunteers display harvested food for distribution

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