FARGO — There's a cornfield right in the heart of Fargo. Maybe you've noticed it east of Interstate 29, just north of Main Avenue. Employees of Case New Holland planted it to help feed the hungry. A group called "GleaND" is picking it for the Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, which will distribute it to hungry people around the region.
Gleaning is an ancient practice of picking food left in the field after harvest for the needy. But it's making a comeback, and now it can be extra food from a grocery store or a restaurant — or a field. In this case, a cornfield.
“Gleaning is the process of taking food that is unwanted or unused in some capacity and getting it to those who need it,” said Janice Tweet, GleaND coordinator.
Food is left in fields for many reasons, two big ones are that mechanical harvesting misses a lot, or sometimes the crop isn’t pretty enough for supermarket shelves. But this 3-acre cornfield was planted especially to donate to the food bank.
Andrew Flory is the food resource manager at Great Plains Food Bank. He said corn is especially popular with their clients, and it goes quickly.
“The first time we came out, we just kind of saw this big field, and I think we got a little bug-eyed and got so excited seeing all this amazing corn,” he said.
“So far, we have gotten about 7,000 pounds out of here, and we feel like we're just starting to make a dent,” Tweet said.
This field is one of several around the region that volunteers are harvesting this fall. When they're done, they will have collected thousands of pounds of corn, melons, squash, tomatoes and other crops to help feed the hungry.
The GleaND program was started a couple years ago by the Great Plains Food Bank, and they're already calling it a success. In 2018, there were just over 7,000 pounds of food picked.
“We've already surpassed the amount of pounds that we got last year through the program,” Flory said. “So we're off to a great start, and we've still got, you know, a good two weeks of gleans ahead of us.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates nearly 100 billion pounds of food goes to waste in the field every year in the U.S., and this program is doing its part to get some of that food onto the plates of hungry people.
The gleaning is done by volunteers. GleaND is hoping to expand the program around the state. If you'd like more information or to volunteer, go to gleand.org.
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