LACONIA – From juicy pears and tart apples harvested from local orchards and back yards, to blue potatoes and cabbage from local farms, the Lakes Regions' gleaning haul this year provided a big boost to local food pantries and church food donations.
Gleaning is the act of gathering excess and unharvested fruit and vegetables from trees and fields for redistribution to local schools, agencies, soup kitchens and food pantries.
"We've been building our base for two years, and this year we were able to gather quite a bit of food for and with the help of our local clients," said Lisa Morin of the Belknap County Conservation District.
New Hampshire Gleans, according to New Hampshire Farm to School Program, is a statewide network that works to increase the availability of fresh and local produce for distribution to local food pantries, soup kitchens, community suppers and schools.
It is supported by the University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute and Morin said they harvested 300 pounds of food in 2013, 2,000 pounds of food in 2014 and about the same amount this year with additional growers wanting to participate in upcoming years.
One of the people who contributed was Ward 5 City Councilor Bob Hamel.
He said Morin's office is at the Belknap County Court House and he occasionally works as a court security officer there.
Hamel said he was telling some people, including Morin, about his pear tree and how it was full of fruit and he and his wife had eaten or canned about all of the pears they could stand.
"I didn't know what to do with them," he said, noting they were Bosc pears that were big and juicy.
He said Morin, one of her associates who was hired by the program to assist with gleaning, and he used his stepladder and picked about 100 pounds of pears.
Morin said the gleaning goals for the future include expanding their network of farmers and commercial growers, encourage a "grow a row" for home farmers for donation to the program, use the Belknap County Community Gardens to grow food for donations, and to partner with the UNH Cooperative and the Belknap County House of Corrections to produce more food.
Morin said they harvested or gleaned blueberries from KREBS Farm in Sanbornton, blueberries from Green Acre Farm in New Hampton, pears from Hamel, tomatoes from Ward 6 City Councilor Armand Bolduc, pears from Gilford resident Tom Sullivan, apples from Belmont resident Linda Frawley, a variety of vegetables from Picnic Rock Farm, apples from Belmont resident Donna Hepp, vegetables from Woodland Heights Elementary School, and onions and red potatoes from the Opechee Park House raised bed gardens.
The recipients of the food that was redistributed were the Vineyard Church Soup Kitchen and and Food Pantry, The Congregational Church Food Pantry in Tilton, the Second Baptist Church in Sanbornton, and the New Hampshire Food Bank in Manchester.
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