By Jean Blish Siers *
Here’s something I’ve learned after four years of working with Society of St. Andrew: If someone calls on Monday morning with 18 tons of bananas that need to get dropped somewhere by Monday afternoon, say, “Yes, thank you!” and then get busy finding ministries all over the area that will get them out to people whose diet will be greatly enriched by fresh fruit.
That’s what happened a couple weeks ago. After a busy weekend (two Saturday gleanings that included 50 volunteers, a ton of grapes, a half-ton of corn, and more than two tons of watermelon; and a Sunday dinner program at our local Presbytery celebrating their Hunger Action Teams,) my phone rang. Chiquita had sent a double order of bananas to a local store. The driver needed to get into Charlotte, empty his load, and pick up another load by evening. The local food bank couldn’t handle the truck that day. So Chiquita found their way to Society of St. Andrew.We are lucky in Charlotte to have a great working relationship with Loaves and Fishes, which operates 19 food pantries throughout the county. They offered the use of their forklifts and warehouse to unload and store the fruit until I could get trucks there to distribute them.
In two days, more than a dozen trucks pulled into Loaves and Fishes and were loaded with perfect, lovely bananas. Each box weighed 40 pounds, and each pallet held 48 boxes, stacked more than six-feet high. Some trucks took a couple dozen boxes. Some took a whole pallet load. One driver brought a box truck from the North Carolina mountains and took nine pallets back to this mostly rural area where poverty is high and fresh fruit scarce.
On Wednesday afternoon, I called my contact at Chiquita to thank him and to let him know that all the produce found good homes. He said that these kinds of things happen regularly, and too often the driver ends up dumping the whole load in a landfill because he has to pick up another load to stay on schedule. I was able to tell him the bananas that would have been wasted found their way to at least eight counties around Charlotte. People called and texted me for days, telling me how happy the recipients were to receive something fresh and nutritious.
Harvest is a busy time. September days are full of gleanings of grapes and watermelons and corn, of tomatoes and sweet potatoes. These local crops are fantastic and they feed the people in my area well. But when someone offers something as crazy as a truckload of bananas, I say, “Yes, thank you!”
* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator.