Practically Perfect Peaches

By Lynette Johnson *

Vounteers bagging peaches.

SoSA volunteers bagging peaches.

In my early 20s, I lived briefly in upstate South Carolina. Eagerly stopping at a roadside peach stand one summer day, I asked for a basket of peaches.

What I got was an education. “Ma’am, we have 22 varieties of peaches out today. You’ll need to tell us what kind you want.”

It’s peach season again, so I found myself dithering at a roadside stand in Virginia last weekend. Just three choices this time, though, all freestone. I chose a quarter-bushel of yellow peaches—sadly, I forgot to ask the variety.

It would have been a great time to ask all my questions, because shopping at a roadside stand gives you direct access to the farm and the farmer! It also gives you access to sizes and shapes of produce that you probably wouldn’t find in a grocery store.

Perfect peaches in a pulp tray.

Practically perfect peaches in a paper pulp tray.

Have you ever wondered how all the peaches at your supermarket fit into those clever recycled paper-pulp tray displays? How they grew so uniformly, just right for the space allotted to each?

Of course they didn’t grow that way! Supermarket peaches were harvested to meet USDA commodity standards, varying just 1/8” in size, with restrictions on color, shape, firmness, and blemishes. The trays were made, and the peaches picked, to meet the US No. 1 standard.

U.S. Number 1 Peaches

U.S. Number 1 Peaches

You might find the US No. 2s in an occasional store, probably in a bulk bin. But most of those will go to canneries. And the rest? Likely never harvested or graded out at the packing house, and left to rot!

What percentage of the harvest is actually lost? Check out this alarming chart from our friends at the NRDC:

Estimates of Crop Shrink

What can YOU do about all that good food going uneaten?

  • Shop at a farmers market or at a roadside or on-farm stand. Buy directly from the grower!
  • Don’t be so picky in the grocery store. Every time you handle a piece of fruit, you are shortening its shelf life. If you pick it up and squeeze it, then you know it well enough to take it home!
  • Eat what you buy. If you can’t eat it quickly enough, then freeze what’s left. The internet makes it easy to find freezing instructions that will preserve peak freshness.
  • Volunteer with the Society of St. Andrew, and glean some of those peaches to share with hungry families in your community. Peaches are ripe and ready now, and we need your help! Visit endhunger.org/volunteer or give us a call at 800-333-4597 to get started.

* Lynette Johnson is SoSA’s Director of Church Relations.


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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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