MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County’s Gleaning Program is delivering donated food to agencies and individuals in our local communities throughout Orange and Sullivan counties. Although the program usually uses their refrigerated “Gleanmobile” to transport donations from farms to food distribution centers, food pantries, emergency shelters and soup kitchens, they quickly adapted to making home deliveries due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep everyone involved in the process safe.
“The recent pandemic has created a new need for home delivery of groceries. Most agencies did not have the resources to meet those needs. As an existing delivery program, we were able to shift our focus and get food to families sheltering at home” explains Stiles Najac, Food Security Community Liaison at Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County. Stiles has lead the Gleaning Program for over a decade and has dedicated much of her time recently to being able to continue running this program while meeting the growing needs of the population the program serves. Presently the Gleaning Team includes Stiles along with other staff members of CCE Orange County who have shifted their roles to help as well as a few dedicated Master Gardener volunteers.
“We’ve been working with Cornell Cooperative Extension for over a decade now and they are the most incredible addition to our program. The families we serve really appreciate having fresh produce and I know how much healthier it is for them. We and the families really appreciate the efforts Stiles and the Gleaning crew go through to get us produce every month” said Marietta Allen of St. Mary’s Outreach in Newburgh, NY.
The need for food assistance for many people is not only real, but growing. The food insecure population is increasing with many people now trying to navigate their needs for the first time due to unexpected changes caused by COVID-19.
“When the people here see me arrive, they start asking for food. Usually when I have to go to the food bank, there may be 50 people there but only 10 heads of lettuce available. People fight over it. With the Gleaning Program’s deliveries, I don’t have to worry about that because they bring me an abundance of food to give out and I really appreciate that” said Hyacinth Hill of the Church of God of Prophecy Food Pantry in Newburgh, NY.
The Gleaning Program depends upon receiving donations that they can then deliver to those who need them. Agencies that have been contributing bags of food ready to deliver are TOUCH (Together Our Unity Can Heal, Inc.), RECAP (Regional Economic Community Action Program), St. Paul’s Food Pantry in Middletown, Harmony Baptist Food Pantry in Middletown and Easterseals of Project Discovery in Port Jervis. In addition, the Hudson Valley Farm Hub regularly donates vegetables that the Gleaning Team distributes between the ready-made bags.
During the first week of April, the Gleaning Team delivered 16 bags of donated food. Now they are consistently serving 75 families directly to their homes throughout Orange and Sullivan counties weekly as well as making deliveries to local food pantries. If you or someone you know is experiencing hunger, you can call the Orange County Crisis Hotline at 1-800-832-1200 and they can assist with finding food.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County recognizes the need for the Gleaning Program now more than ever and is currently raising donations through Hudson Valley Gives – an online Giving Day on Wednesday, May 20th. HV Gives is an annual 24-hour event that that unites individuals and businesses across the Hudson Valley and encourages one common goal – to “give where you live.”
Noel Spencer, a long-time supporter and past Board Member of Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County kicked things off with a $1,000 donation to the Gleaning Program. “When I heard about what the Gleaning Program is doing to help people who have been hit hard during COVID-19, it encouraged me to give in the hopes to assist getting meals to people who need them” shared Noel.
If you are interested in donating through HV Gives, check out CCE Orange County’s profile on their site at www.hvgives.org. You can also find more information about how to donate anytime along with information on the Gleaning Program atwww.CCEOrangeCounty.org.
Cornell Cooperative Extension and its partnerships provide programs for Orange County residents on youth and family development; nutrition, health, and food safety; community and economic vitality; and agricultural sustainability through Cornell based research. Committed to Orange County, we design programs to meet local needs to enable people to improve their lives and communities. For more information call Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County at 845-344-1234 or visit our website at www.CCEOrangeCounty.org.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County