Tri-Cities nonprofit gleans to help others, reduce food waste

BURBANK, Wash. – Tri-Cities nonprofit Fields of Grace is celebrating 15 years in the making.

While they’ve had a tough year during the pandemic, Executive Director Lisa Williams said this year is like a reboot for them.

The organization, with the permission of landowners, gleans produce. This means, they take crops that would otherwise go to waste throughout the Tri-Cities, and donate the produce.

On a warm, Wednesday morning, volunteers picked blueberries to be distributed to various Tri-Cities nonprofits.

“I like doing things for other people, it keeps me busy, it’s something different, it’s certainly not something you do everyday,” Volunteer Mary Shoop said.

Williams said it’s rare for them to pick a crop so large and for multiple days, but the land they were invited to is for sale.

“Otherwise they sit here and perish on the bushes, and we’re going in and gleaning them for the foodbank and that’s a treat for people who don’t normally get that kind of thing,” Williams explained.

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Most of the time, volunteers pick produce from residents’ backyards who’s plant or tree may have produced more than they can consume. Other times, Williams added, they go to orchards that don’t meet the visual requirements.

“As consumers, we are programmed to want perfect fruit. There’s nothing wrong with it from a nutrition standpoint, so for us to go in and capture that for our food banks; it’s a blessing,” Williams said most people who receive their donations don’t get the proper amount of fruits and vegetables.

Almost anyone can volunteer, too. You just need close-toed shoes, a signed waiver and a heart for giving.

We have had a two year old picking cherries, we have had a 90-something, we have had people with a walker,” Williams motioned to Shoop.

“I’ve got enough, and so if I can do things for other people that’s great,” Shoop added.

Over the course of a couple days, the group collected over 1000 pounds of blueberries from the farm.

While they could pick for hours, they called it a day before it got too hot, then delivered their harvest to Tri-Cities nonprofits.

“We haven’t made a dent, but when you walk into the foodbank, they’re very grateful, they’re very happy, so while it doesn’t look like it made much here, when they get into the community, the impact is really there,” Williams said.

If you’d like to volunteer with Fields of Grace, check out their website to sign up for the next glean.