Season 2, Episode 06

Feed My Sheep, Part 2

Return to Episode: Feed My Sheep, Part 2

Donna Sanders headshot and byline.

Last week on WTFCF we visited L&M Farms in East Palatka, Fl. We met the Director of Food Recovery Feeding Florida Sherri Atwell. Sherri talked about how the “face of hunger” is changing and we learned that 3.1 million people in Florida alone cannot afford nutritious food. Feeding Florida was able to recover 45 million pounds of produce last year and with the help of 12 food banks was able to distribute “nutritious” food to local communities, individuals and families. What a worthwhile cause.

Sherri Atwell Headshot

Sherri Atwell, Feeding America’s Director of Food Recovery for Feeding Florida

Adam Lytch, Farm Operations Manager, L&M Companies

Adam Lytch, Farm Operations Manager, L&M Companies

Next we met L&M Farms Operations Manager Adam Lytch. He reiterated all though some food lacks eye appeal it maintains the same nutritional value of its pretty counterparts or sometimes there is an abundance of food left in the fields. The question becomes what is L & M Farms doing about it? They have partnered up with Feeding America to help feed the 3.1 million people who do not have access to healthy food in Florida.

Where to next?

Off to Smith’s Farm in Hastings, FL to meet the wonderful people of Society of St. Andrew. The difference between Feeding America and Society of St. Andrew had to be explained to me over and over again. In a nutshell, Feeding America is a support organization who picks up the food and distributes it while Society of St. Andrew does the gleaning.

Gleaning was a new term for me. Google here I come. Gleaning is the process of gathering crops left in the field after the farmers have harvested the fields two to three times. Okay, I finally got it.

Remember what I said about the continuity of the product for eye appeal to satisfy the consumers? Well by the time the fields are harvested the less attractive produce remains behind and in come the gleaners.

Gleaner working in a broccoli field.

Gleaner working in a broccoli field.

Feeding America's Eli Darkath

Feeding America's Eli Darkath

When we arrived at Smith’s Farm there were so many people in the broccoli field carrying buckets and what looked like machetes. It was an amazing site. These volunteers, both young and old, were cutting the leftover broccoli with the menacing looking machetes and carrying it to huge boxes. Northeast Feeding Florida Eli Darkath, who you met last week, was there dumping the broccoli in these boxes.

Remember Nikki Lee the truck driver in the tie-dyed t-shirt? With her huge truck she was there to move the broccoli to the distribution center after the gleaning.

Between the two organizations it becomes a full circle. Society of St. Andrew works in the fields gathering the crops and Feeding America distributes it.

I really wanted to get in the act. I carried the buckets of broccoli to the huge boxes. I am not out of shape, but these buckets were so heavy I could only make three trips. I guess I have to lift more weights. Time to move on and meet D.W. Hollingshead and Linda Deshauteurs.

Gleaners D.W. Hollingshead and Linda Deshauteurs

Gleaners D.W. Hollingshead and Linda Deshauteurs as seen in Season 2, Episode 5

D.W. and Linda are two of the volunteers who were actually on vacation – yes on vacation. They heard about the gleaning of the broccoli and answered the call to help. Chip was off camera to ask questions, but realized he did not have to interject. D.W. and Linda explained the mission, why they do it, and the satisfaction they get from it in great detail. Why I did not get a picture myself is beyond me. Probably because I was attempting to carry the buckets of broccoli. Rest assured you will see it in the episode.

Up next is Barbara Sayles who at the time was the Director Society of St Andrew. Barbara has since retired and Kelly Stainner has taken her place. Barbara discussed Society of St. Andrew in great detail. She explained how volunteers across Florida enter the fields and groves picking up produce the farmer’s left behind.

A little research on my part provided more information. The Society of St. Andrew was founded in 1995 and operates with the Florida Gleaning Network. Did you know Florida is one of the few states that gleans every month?

Chip and Barbara Sayles, former director at Society of St. Andrew

Chip and Barbara Sayles, former director at Society of St. Andrew

I don’t remember if Barbara mentioned this, but gleaning takes place during the week and on Saturdays. I don’t usually add links to the farms or organizations, but watching the gleaners was amazing and really moved me. I had no idea this even existed. My plan is to get my teenage grandsons in on the act. I know so many kids today take things for granted. To understand how many people go without this basic necessity will possibly open their eyes to those less fortunate than them and helping to do something about it will teach them an important lesson in life. To become a volunteer please visit their website

At this point I know you are saying there are a lot of interviews, but what can be more important than feeding people who do not have access to food?

Up next is Smith’s Farm Manager Gary Allman. Gary talked about Smith’s Farm connection with Feeding America and Society of St. Andrew. Gary is very brave and smart. You see, he gave Chip a machete to cut the broccoli. With Gary standing a bit of a distance away Chip did glean the broccoli and Gary remained safe.

Can you can tell from the smile on his face that our resident 7-year-old was quite pleased with himself?

Chip and Smith's Farm Manager Gary Allman

Chip and Smith's Farm's Manager Gary Allman

Chip picking broccoli.

Chip picking broccoli

Chip holding two broccoli stalks he just picked.

The 7-year-old is pleased with himself

Our Last Stop Of The Day: The Distribution Center

In your mind’s eye picture a line of cars about 2 miles long trying to get into the distribution center. What was interesting, the make and models of the cars ranged from the beat and run down to beautiful new ones.

So why the difference? Remember what Sherri Atwell said? “The face of hunger is changing” so the proof is in the pudding. Some people may say – well people who don’t need it are taking advantage. Maybe some are, but I would like to think the majority of people waiting in line are the ones who really do.

It was the end of the day and the food inside the building was gone. But what we did see was a parking lot filled with the line of cars, boxes of food, and people there to load the food in the cars. Personally, is was a sad sight, but what was going on there is truly amazing.

We were able to interview a couple who really needed to take advantage of the food being distributed. Meet Glenn and Elizabeth Dellinger. Glenn recently retired and the plan was for he and his wife to travel. Well that got shot down.

Man signs waiver at food distribution center.

Due to circumstances beyond their control the Dellinger’s needed help obtaining food. Glenn explained how his social security check can barely afford to pay the bills, never mind putting groceries in the pantry. While holding her dog Elizabeth periodically interjected and repeatedly said “how hard things are and you have to do what you have to do.” The interview ended with Glenn stating “once they did not need the help they will stop coming and let those who continue to need the food have it.” Again, you can see this emotional interview in the episode.

Well there you have it. We have met the wonderful people of Feeding America, the support organization who picks up and distributes the food, and Society of St. Andrew who gleans the field.

We had the opportunity to speak with gleaners and why they do it and to those who need the food the most.

Hopefully, those who are reading this article will be moved to help in some way. Whether you are a farmer who will be willing to open up their fields after harvest or a person who takes on the arduous and rewarding job of gleaning.

Broccoli picked during gleaning in big shipping box.