JERICHO — Members of the Colchester-Milton Rotary Club got dirt under their fingernails and grass stains on their knees a few weeks ago while volunteering to help combat food insecurity in Vermont.
In mid-September, Rotarians gleaned a field of beets at Jericho Settlers Farm as part of the Intervale Center’s Gleaning and Food Rescue Program.
Gleaning is the harvesting of imperfect or overproduced produce that does not make it to the grocery store. The Intervale Center distributes gleaned produce to income eligible community members and social service agencies as part of its Fair Share Program.
Individuals and families receive about 6-8 pounds of local vegetables a week and social service agencies receive about 20-50 pounds a week. Hunger Free Vermont attends produce pick up days to provide taste tests and cooking demonstrations.
During the pandemic, food insecurity in Vermont has increased by one-third, from 18.3 percent to 24.3 percent, according to a statewide survey conducted by the University of Vermont.
Sue Mohr, a member of the Rotary Club’s Service Committee, said the group has found it difficult to find safe, accessible volunteer opportunities during the pandemic, but that gleaning worked perfectly.
“It was really a fun project for us,” Mohr said. “We were all six to 10 feet away from each other, quickly filling the baskets and chatting. Many of us have been somewhat isolated — working out of the home or just staying home or only having zoom meetings, so it was nice to meet with these rotary friends in-person and know we were doing something good at the same time.”
The Rotary Club of Colchester-Milton is a branch of Rotary International, an organization that focuses on community service both locally and internationally.
Mohr said seven or eight volunteers from the club gleaned about 840 pounds of beets in about two hours.