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Douglas Co. works to expand food recovery on farms

(WAGM)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 11:30 AM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - Douglas County is working with a handful of partners to expand its food recovery on farms to help county agencies that provide food and shelter to residents.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Office says it has teamed up with After the Harvest, a rescue nonprofit based in Kansas City, and Community Organized Gleaners, a grassroots volunteer group of experienced farmers, in order to expand food recovery on farms in Douglas Co. It said the goal is to rescue nutritious fruits and vegetables from farm fields after the marketable harvest and give them to Douglas Co. agencies that provide food and shelter to community members.

According to LDCSO, the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture awarded it a two-year Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction grant in the fall of 2020 to work on food resource recovery. It said it is one of only 13 communities in the nation to get the grant. It said other grant partners in the project include: Moon on the Meadow farm, Just Food, Lawrence Community Shelter, Sunrise Project and KU Center for Environmental Policy.

With the grant, LDCSO said the County hired Jamie Hofling as a food waste reduction specialist in February of 2021 to oversee strategies related to food waste elimination in the County Food System Plan. It said she works with After the Harvest and COGs to expand the farmer-volunteer gleaning network. By late spring, it said After the Harvest plans to hire a coordinator for the program to work with Hofling. It said the goal is for After the Harvest to take over the program in September of 2022 when the grant ends and to continue to give agencies locally-gleaned produce through Lawrence-based satellite expansion.

LDCSO said After the Harvest has rescued over 24 million pounds of produce for those in need. After the Harvest Gleaning Network Manager Zach Callaway said that since the organization’s focus is now primarily in the Greater Kansas City area, the partnership with Douglas Co. will pave the way to rescue more fruits and vegetables for those in need.

“We think providing fresh produce that’s essential for good health is particularly important during these times,” said Callaway.

According to LDCSO, the multi-partner project is building on locally-based efforts launched in 2020 by COGs. In 2020, it said they recovered 2,644 pounds of food from four local farms with the help of 35 volunteers between July and October. So far in 2021, it said volunteers have recovered 40 pounds of spinach from Moon on the Meadow. It said food has been delivered to Just Food, Sunrise Project and the Lawrence Community Shelter.

“Part of our farm mission is to provide all persons with fresh and local produce and collaborating with the gleaning program allows us to actively work towards this goal,” said Jill Elmers, owner of Moon on the Meadow farm. “Working with the volunteers and seeing what they can pick and gather from fields ready to be turned under is truly amazing and inspiring.”

“Food recovery requires the help of many hands,” Hofling said. “We are actively signing up volunteer gleaners and drivers and reaching out to farmers for the upcoming growing season. Together, we can help people in need by recovering edible food from local fields.”

To signup as a volunteer, click HERE.

To get your farm involved in the program, email jhofling@douglascountyks.org.

For more information about regional gleaning, click HERE.

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