Fresh from the Farm – More Than a Youth Gleaning Program

Guest post provided by Barb Stewart of The Salvation Army – Penticton.

The first time the 2017 crew of enthusiastic Fresh From the Farm youth volunteers boarded The Salvation Army Penticton’s bus, they headed out to the Summerland Strawberry Farm to glean the remains of a u-pick strawberry acreage and bring the harvest in to the food bank. I fondly recall the whispers spreading through the field. One sister to another: “I just tasted one; is that what a strawberry really tastes like?”. A 14 year old boy’s eyes and mouth opened wide in surprise… “I can’t believe it, that’s the best strawberry I’ve ever had.

So, can you imagine the response when the strawberries were offered at the food bank the next day? Food bank clients were treated to the freshest local produce possible. And the thing is…they deserve nothing less.

The food bank client recipients were so grateful. At our food bank we always tell our clients… “You know, youth volunteers picked this fruit for us to distribute to you” or “did you know that youth volunteers helped to tend the community garden where this spinach was grown?”

Fresh from the Farm has become much more than a youth gleaning program. It has provided the youth (who are the children and grandchildren of our food bank clients) with a summer long nutrition and education experience of a lifetime.

The Kitchen Creations grant allowed funding for a staff person to train and coordinate these volunteers. Typically, these volunteer mentors are 50 to 75 year old retired women and men with lots of time on their hands and a lifetime of food wisdom to share. These mentors patiently work alongside the kids (in the fields, in the community kitchen, on the bus rides home, in the community garden) teaching them about how the plant is grown, how to handle the produce, how to clean it, how to store it, how to preserve it and how to nourish themselves well with it.

What a way to kick off the harvest season. And the rich experience continued throughout the summer with cherries, apricots, summer squash, carrots, beets, garlic, peaches, kale, spinach tomatoes, peppers, squash and the list goes on!

One of the mottos of the Salvation Army is “Giving Hope Today”.  But besides trying to meet our clients’ emergency need for food…our wish here at The Salvation Army Penticton is that the youth will reap the health rewards of a more food secure future. Thank you to Food Banks Canada and Unilever for giving hope for tomorrow.

Barb Stewart

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