It was the summer of 2016 when I got in touch for the first time with the Gleaning Abundance Program.
As a newcomer, I wanted to meet new people, so I signed up as a volunteer. At the beginning, I was not aware about how the harvest was shared so my first basket of cherries was a truly unexpected gift. The program made a lot of sense to me. I was able to access to some food in exchange for a little work and time. Fresh food! Just picked! From the perspective of someone who always had lived in a big city and had never had the chance to participate in a harvest, this program was a real privilege. From the perspective of building a better world, this program represented for me the essence of social justice: giving food access to those in need.
During the summer of 2019, I had the privilege of joining the Kamloops Food Policy Council as the Coordinator of the Gleaning Abundance Program. I want to remark about how privileged we are. The abundance of fruit in our community is stunning. We have cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, apples and grapes and more. During this past season, we had almost 70 harvests and didn’t pick even 1/3 of the fruit trees in Kamloops that are registered on our database. This year, by the end of September, we had picked 7,847 pounds of fresh fruit and we had donated 3,869 pounds to more than 23 recipients, many of whom work directly with a vulnerable population.
It is worth it to say that we had an atypical year in terms of fruit production. The weather during the first months of the year affected the blossoms of the apricots, as is well known, but also affected the other fruits in terms of quantity and quality. Fruit that should be ready to pick at a certain time was not ready, from one day to the other all the fruit started getting ripe, apples started falling earlier, pears were misshapen.
All of these things brought challenges to my task of coordinating the harvests. We had a big window of time without fruit ready to pick. Then, suddenly, we had to schedule two or three harvests a day because the fruit was falling. Our volunteers’ enthusiasm was decreasing as the time went by. Nevertheless, beyond all expectations, I love the way this program builds community in Kamloops. People from different backgrounds gather with the same purpose in mind, support those in need. We also share stories, cooking recipes, different ways to use the fruit, and the most valuable for me was meeting new people and making new friends.
For more information about the Gleaning Abundance Program and the Kamloops Food Policy Council, visit our website: kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com. And please join us at our monthly network meetings, first Wednesday of the month (except January), 5:30 – 7:30 PM at Mount Paul Community Food Centre (140 Laburnum Street). If you’d like, bring a dish to share in our legendary potluck!