Dropping the Hammer

Birmingham Magazine (October 20, 2014) – Crop Drops: Society of St. Andrew is dropping the hammer on hunger, one crop at a time

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By June Mathews

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of life in the United States is that in a nation of plenty, hunger persists. Apply that concept close to home, and the news becomes even more troubling.

According to the Alabama Food Bank Association, more than 19 percent of Alabamians are “food insecure,” meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. And the shame of it is hunger usually isn’t due to a lack but rather a waste of food.

U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics tell us that 27 percent of all the food produced in the United States each year is lost at the retail, consumer and food service levels, amounting to 263 million pounds of wasted food per day. Yes, per day, and much of this food is nutritious and edible.

“You could literally fill a football stadium every day with the food that’s wasted in our country,” says Mary Lynn Botts, the Alabama program coordinator for Virginia-based Society of St. Andrew. “That’s a tremendous amount.”

Named for the disciple who brought an unidentified boy’s loaves and fishes to Jesus for distribution to a hungry crowd, SoSA works to reduce waste and make good food available to people in need, usually through shelters and other agencies. Since its founding in 1983, countless volunteers have gleaned millions of pounds of fresh, nutritious produce that would have otherwise been left lying in fields to rot.

SoSA’s Alabama regional office was established in 1992.

“Fruits and vegetables are required to meet a certain standard before they can be purchased by retail outlets,” Bott explained, “so a lot of produce winds up being thrown away. The farmers are more than happy to have this food put to good use; they just don’t have the means to do it. So we make it possible for volunteers to become the hands and feet for feeding the hungry.”

Not only do SoSA volunteers glean fields or pick up culled produce from growers, they glean farmers’ markets, too. In fact, one of the organization’s most productive gleaning operations takes place at Pepper Place Saturday Market. Volunteers deliver oversize collection bags to willing vendors and return to collect the filled bags at day’s end. An average gleaning at Pepper Place yields 500 to 600 pounds of produce, which is picked up and distributed by the Community Food Bank of Alabama.

But probably the most popular of SoSA’s food distribution activities involves “dropping” loads of produce in parking lots or other open areas for volunteers to bag.

A recent green bean drop in Trussville attracted more than 300 volunteers and resulted in 20,000 pounds of produce being bagged for distribution. From January to May this year, 250,000 pounds of apples were dropped and bagged by various groups, and this year’s fall sweet potato crop is looking promising enough for Botts to have already scheduled two drops for those.

Such “crop drops,” as well as SoSA’s other food-capturing activities, says Botts, help distribute vast amounts of food. But planning ahead can be tricky.
“As the farmer is dependent on weather and other conditions so are we,” she says. “But rest assured when a grower tells us he’s got an abundance, we’re going to do everything we can to get it.”

For information on how you or your church or civic group can get involved in the Society of St. Andrew gleaning and food distribution efforts, visit endhunger.org/alabama.htm and fill out the volunteer form. You may also contact Mary Lynn Botts at 205-245-3214 or ALglean@endhunger.org.



In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.