Apples, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Fairytale eggplant, Green beans, Kale, Peppers, Strawberries, Swiss chard, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Zucchini...

What do all these items have in common?They have all been gleaned this year by Halleigh Benner.

She and other volunteers make The Gleaning Project's wheels turn. Without them we would be nothing.

Halleigh first learned about gleaning from going to an “Empty Bowls” fund raiser at Gettysburg College. She works with other volunteers to collect leftover crops from farms and orchards that are not economical for farmers to pick. The Gleaning Project then donates the gleaned produce to folks throughout Adams and Franklin Counties who are unable to afford enough food to live a healthy active lifestyle.

Fitting gleaning into her schedule isn’t easy. She currently works 3 jobs (at Target, a restaurant, and the US Post Office). But, she says, “Gleaning is always the highlight of my week. I know I did something rewarding. I’m kind of sad it’s winter and there won’t be anymore gleans.”

Wondering what it's like to be an in-field gleaning volunteer? Learn a bit about Halleigh's experience in her own words:

Food Lessons: “I love that through gleaning we are preserving foods that are perfectly fine but don’t look good enough to sell. I never knew how some cucumbers get wasted because they are bent or a pepper won’t sell because it has some yellow in it.” Halleigh said she is shocked at how much food waste there is when so many people are going hungry.

“Gleaning has taught me so much about the quality of foods and what they should taste like. I like the tomatoes the best. They’re all different kinds, like zebra tomatoes. Some are sweet, some acidic. I thought I didn’t like cauliflower but the other day a gleaning staffer said to me, ‘Just try it,’ and it was actually pretty good.”

Fellow Gleaners: Halleigh said she’s met a lot of new people. “Some have been gardeners so they told me about their gardens and how they plant. Whenever I have my own house, I want to have a garden.”

Gleaning isn’t hard to do, she said, “The longest glean I ever did was 90 minutes long. If you’re not up to doing something, there is always someone there to help you.” "By the way," she added, "we sure could use more wheelbarrows, if anyone can donate one. They make a big difference.”

As we reflect on the 2016 season, we want to thank our volunteers and share what you have accomplished for our organization and for our community.  With over 1,000 volunteers this year alone, we know we have a lot of stories to tell. Share your favorite memory with us... about what you enjoyed, what scared you, what surprised you, what pushed you out of your comfort zone... you name it, we'll share it!

Send us your memories! Via Facebook: www.facebook.com/thegleaningprojectscpa Or send a story to our email (thegleaningproject@gmail.com) and we will feature it on our blog. Want to be anonymous? No problem. Share pictures to our instagram: @the_gleaning_project

Interested in volunteering for The Gleaning Project during the winter months? Check out the volunteer section of our website to see how you can get involved and shoot us an email or phone call so we can get you started! Bridget in the Adams County Office: 717-334-7634 x 162 Jay in the Franklin County Office: 717-492-6269

Thanks again to each and every one of you who has spent time to help reduce food loss and end hunger in South Central Pennsylvania.