Volunteers with Saint Pete Abundance are gleaning urban fruit trees to help needy

"Gleaning" volunteers fight waste and hunger

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - While families struggle to feed their families in our community, countless tons of fresh fruit and vegetables rot on the ground and go to waste.

But now a growing movement called 'gleaning' is working to solve both problems at once.

In neighborhoods across the country, platoons of young volunteers with ladders and lots of pluck are helping themselves to other people's fresh fruit.
St. Petersburg resident Julie Eaves gets a twinge of guilt with every crop of mangoes on her giant front yard tree.  Most of them end up eaten by squirrels or rotting on the ground.
So Eaves is delighted to see her harvest rescued by neighborhood volunteers, on this day made up mostly of school-aged children and their parents.

"It's wonderful that they're able to gather the fruit and distribute it to people who are able to enjoy it," said Eaves.

Gleaning is an old English word describing the collection of food after the main harvest.
"We're making sure it gets to the place it needs to go, instead of going to waste," said Tracey Locke, organizer of a gleaning group called Saint Pete Abundance.

Locke formed the group after seeing the astonishing amount of food rotting on the ground of her own neighborhood.

Now her group and others in the Tampa Bay area distribute leaflets asking neighbors to share the bounty of their food-bearing trees and shrubs.  

They also get permission to glean the surplus fruit from commercial berry growers and other farmers.

"That could feed dozens and dozens of families just by us going out on a Saturday afternoon and having some fun," said Locke.

On this day, the harvest of mangoes went to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic food bank that helps feed the estimated one-in-six local families that rely on help to get enough food.  It also helps the young volunteers like 13-year-old Joey Ambrefe appreciate the fruit of their labor.

"A bunch of kids that are homeless, or families that are hungry get some goodness out of this, which is good," said Ambrefe.

A city-wide fruit drive to benefit the St. Petersburg Free Clinic will be held Saturday, June 29.  Bay area residents with fruit or other produce to share can drop off contributions at five Pinellas locations. 

Those wishing to contribute of volunteer can do so year round.  Get more details at http://www.saintpeteabundance.org .

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