Gleaning: Passion and Commitment to Stop Hunger

By Gwen Sisson in the  September 9, 2016 edition of The Starkville District Newsletter *

It was a hot August day in the Mississippi Delta, but for Eve Priester of St. James United Methodist Church of Columbus, gleaning watermelons meant many hungry children in Columbus would have a special treat that day.

“Gleaning is one of the best ways to stop hunger,” Priester said. “If you have the heart, the passion and the desire to do something outside of the box for your community, this is a special project. It is about having a passion to help hungry neighbors in my community. It was a hard job, but it was so worth it.”


Members of St. James UMC of Columbus, Asbury UMC of Holly Springs, and Wesley Memorial UMC of Greenwood recently gleaned watermelons from the Delta that were divided and brought back to their individual communities.

Priester joined members of St. James UMC of Columbus, as well as members of Asbury UMC of Holly Springs and Wesley Memorial UMC of Greenwood to glean watermelons that were divided and brought back to their individual communities.

Rev. Brenda McCaskill of Wesley Memorial UMC in Greenwood (formerly of St. James UMC in Columbus) said it took some effort to bend down, pull the watermelons, carry them, and to load them, but three teams from the Greenwood, Senatobia, and Starkville UMC Districts worked together in unity to fill up three trucks and a trailer.

“It felt great to give something to people and to witness the appreciation on their faces,” said McCaskill. “Many people thought we were selling watermelons, but when they found out they were free, they gladly accepted a melon.”

Watermelons were distributed at Columbus St. James UMC in Columbus by Terry and Eve Priester; at Asbury UMC in Holly Springs by Rev. Fred and Emma Brown; and at Greenwood Wesley Memorial UMC by Rev Brenda McCaskill and her sister-in-law, Monica McCaskill.

The churches are volunteers with The Society of St. Andrew of Mississippi, which organized the watermelon gleaning project in the Delta.

Pickup truck loaded with watermelons.

Several truckloads of watermelons gleaned from the Delta headed to Columbus to be distributed by St. James UMC to neighbors in need.

Andy Lemmon, the Mississippi-Arkansas director of The Society of St. Andrew, said over 100,000 pounds of watermelons were gleaned in the Delta by the three churches. Lemmon said produce typically gleaned has cosmetic defects that will not allow the food to be sold by the farmer, but they are just as fresh and tasty as the produce picked for market.

“It is a blessing when farmers allow us to glean food that could not be sold at market, but still good to eat,” Lemmon said. “It is a cost-effective way to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for those families who are living in poverty in Mississippi. It makes a significant impact on hunger in Mississippi.”

The Society of St. Andrew is a nation-wide, faith-based nonprofit organization that connects farmers and volunteers to deliver fresh food to people in need.

To volunteer and receive updates on year-round gleaning opportunities in Mississippi, contact Lemmon at 769-233-0887 and find them on Facebook.

* Gwen Sisson is District Communicator for the Starkville District of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.



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.