Good things come in small (or oddly shaped) packages!

By Jean Blish Siers *

Small PeachLate on a Friday afternoon, about the time I assumed I could shut my computer down and start my weekend, my phone started ringing. First came a call from a farmer who had seven rows of peach trees that we could glean. The peaches were small – mostly too small to sell – and some had a bit of frost damage on the skin. While the scarring was purely cosmetic, he couldn’t sell what was left on the trees. The 90-degree-plus days we’ve been having here in the Charlotte area meant those peaches needed to get picked quickly, and I knew I needed to start recruiting volunteers

Before I could get an email written, my phone rang again; this time it was a distributer who had twenty-one 500+-pound bins of watermelons that needed a new home. The store had contracted for 10 to 12-pound melons and the bins were full of 6 to 8-pound melons.  What the store didn’t want was perfect for the groups we serve, many of whom are senior citizens who don’t need a huge watermelon.

As I started making calls to line up drivers to visit the warehouse, the phone rang again! A farm we work with often in the summer had a field of corn ready for us already. The heat had pushed it to maturity sooner than they expected and while they harvested some out of it, it simply wasn’t going to hold and new fields were ready.

Here’s the amazing thing and while I always answer my phone, even at 5 p.m. on a hot Friday: All that produce which “the world” didn’t want found happy homes through Society of St. Andrew. By Wednesday, we’d picked and distributed about 800 pounds of peaches that went to shelters for women and children, battered women, immigrant families, and low-income neighborhoods.

The 12,000 pounds of watermelons ended up at a wide variety of places: a church’s senior citizen celebration, our local meals on wheels agency, inner-city daycares, neighborhoods, and food pantries in at least six counties.

Seedless WatermelonAnd that corn? About 15 of us gathered on a humid but overcast morning and picked more than a ton of corn in less than two hours. Sure, some of it hadn’t filled out all the way to the end of the cob. Some ears were shorter than others. But those of us who sampled in the fields can vouch for how delicious it was. We loaded trucks and cars and sent it off to soup kitchens, nursing homes, three different meals-on-wheels agencies, and a food pantry serving Latino immigrants.

What does it say about us as a culture that we can so easily toss away something that doesn’t precisely meet our ideal? How did our food system become so broken that a grocery store would rather see 15,000 pounds of watermelons go to waste than change their sale sign to accommodate a different size?

I’m thrilled that I work with farmers, distributers, volunteers, and aid agencies that truly understand that good things can indeed come in small or oddly shaped packages! Let’s spread the word!

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s gleaning coordinator in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.


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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.

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