Gleaning on a grand scale

Today’s cover story focuses on the resurgence of gleaning, an ancient ritual in which the poor among us take advantage of the leftovers that remain in harvested fields and orchards or are rejected for sale to consumers.

In one sense, I do the same thing on my own quarter-acre.

But don’t call me a vegetable gardener. I don’t deserve the flattery. My idea of eating off the fat of my mortgaged land is to set out a few tomato plants, throw some water on them and see what happens.

Gloriously, tomatoes often appear. Problem is, a rabbit or some other critter usually gets there first. So I’m the gleaner, picking the few pristine tomatoes that remain.

And those half-eaten ones? I trim off the saliva-coated edges, cut up the rest and toss those pieces into the salad.

Not for company, of course.

As you will see inside these pages, the Society of St. Andrew coordinates gleaning on a much grander scale by sending out crews of average folks to clear the land of perfectly good fruits and vegetables.

The society is a faith-based organization but nonetheless showcases a secular concept: It takes good management to produce results.

The society has identified both a need (hunger) and an opportunity (unharvested produce that otherwise would rot). It has recruited a volunteer labor force and found a distribution system through non-profit agencies that serve the poor.

As someone who has been frustrated at times with “volunteer opportunities” that seem to go for naught, I’m comforted by the ability of this agency to channel the enthusiasm of volunteers in such a monumental way.