I had heard about the work that the Forgotten Harvest organization does many times before; on the radio, from friends, and from some of the stories from organizations that have benefited from their work. But in a lot of ways, the breadth and scope of what the Forgotten Harvest folks do was lost on me — much like the way that one cannot fully grasp the breadth and scope of the Grand Canyon from stories alone… until you see it for yourself…
I — along with a group of Coretek folks — got to experience first-hand what Forgotten Harvest is all about when we dropped by the organization on January 4th. With the comforts of the recent holidays and family events still upon us like a cozy sweater, and the excitement of the new year in our eyes like a glistening ray of hope, we sat down and got a dose of reality in the form of a quick lesson on some staggeringly distressing hunger statistics — and what the Forgotten Harvest organization is doing to remedy the problem (for examples of what we learned, please see the 2010 Forgotten Harvest Annual Report).
We were immediately and deeply affected from the explanation of the vast needs of the community, the vast waste of food, and how these two things had no meaningful correlation before this wonderful organization began to stem the tide and actually solve two problems… just by being smart about them both.
And after a brief explanation of the work we’d be doing during our visit, we split up into teams and headed back under the guidance of Mike, our friendly shop Sargent and guide/instructor.
For the next few hours, half of our group packaged grapefruit from large pallets into small bags and containers for easy distribution to food centers, shelters, etc. These are perfectly good grapefruit that were just a tad too large, or bumpy, or green, and would not have sold well on a store shelf — and would otherwise end up in a landfill! Pallet, after pallet… after pallet… …of perfectly good fruit.
Meanwhile, the other half of our group went into a special section to work on packaging up beef jerky “ends” and “bent” pieces; fresh from the factory, perfectly good, but not fit for the grocery store packaging. Bag after bag, after bag, of jerky was loaded onto pallet after pallet after pallet. This is what I meant about the “Grand Canyon” simile above…
Out of the 40-43 participants, in about a 2+ hour time period, we packed roughly 8000 lbs. of food (5000 lbs. grapefruit, 3000 lbs. meat snacks). Of course, being competitive people by nature, we couldn’t help making a bit of a contest out of the grapefruit vs. jerky teams (yay grapefruit!). And while we were happy and proud to contribute the best way we could, everyone in the room became fully aware of the size of the challenge, the scope of the effort, and our small place in it.
I know we’ll be back.