Truth be told, it does seem a little late for a harvest celebration. I’d prefer the timing of Canadian Thanksgiving, which seems more in synch with nature’s calendar – although our local gleaning project still is finding the season’s final remaining edibles in the field.
In case you don’t know, gleaning refers to the ancient tradition that required farmers to let peasants onto the fields after the harvest to “glean” any leftover produce. Tons of yummy and nutritious food is overlooked because it is late to ripen, doesn’t meet the exacting aesthetic specifications of most grocery chains, can’t easily be captured by mechanical harvesters or is otherwise hard to market. Today, most farmers just plow it under – a real tragedy considering how many inner-city neighborhoods don’t have access to fresh produce and how many food banks in every community are clamoring for donations.
According to Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest), more than one in 10 families are “food insecure” and lack the peace of mind that comes with knowing there will be enough to eat. And, a growing number of families are going hungry in this difficult economic climate. Last month, a BBC poll found a majority of people in developing countries are eating less due to the rising cost of food. For example, 71 percent of people in Panama have altered their diet because of financial concerns.
Of course, there is an urgent human need to help feed – and shelter, clothe, educate and heal – our neighbors who are in need. We also need to examine and address the systemic issues at the heart of the problem. The BBC poll found that 70 percent of people worldwide are dissatisfied with their national government’s approach to keeping food affordable: Egypt (88% dissatisfied), the Philippines (86%), Lebanon (85%), France (79%), Russia (78%) and Italy (74%).
That’s a shame. Whether you’re looking for solutions from your government, local non-profit or neighbors, there is a dizzying array of creative ideas out there. From slow food to food sovereignty, from roof gardens to community gardens to permablitzing, and yes, even gleaning. That gives us plenty of reasons to roll up our sleeves before we sit down to give thanks during this Northern harvest season.
-Talya Bosch, Former Account Director