Thirty-six years ago Tony Lampa and three of his neighbors saw that good tomatoes were going to waste because the tomato vines in their gardens and back yards were producing more beautiful tomatoes than they were able to eat. So they started gathering the extra tomatoes and bringing them to food shelters for the needy.
From this beginning, a volunteer organization has grown. It now includes 500 senior citizens in their 70s and 80s. They call themselves the “Senior Gleaners.”
Based in Sacramento, California, they operate a non-profit food distribution center, where the seniors volunteer their time to help sort, pack and ship to local food banks for the needy the many pounds of good food that supermarkets remove from their shelves, which would otherwise go to waste.
Last year the Senior Gleaners estimate that they helped feed nearly 100,000 people in need by distributing about $10 Million of good food that supermarkets removed from their shelves and would otherwise have discarded. Those on a fixed income who need some help themselves are permitted to take some food from the warehouse pantry twice a week.
Gary McDonald, CEO of the Senior Gleaners organization, says that about 96 Billion pounds of good food is wasted per year, when supermarkets remove from their shelves food that has passed the “sell by” date but is still safe to eat. Yet, due to the economic downturn, more and more Americans have been seeking assistance.
“If we could salvage the food that is being wasted, we could feed everyone in America,” Mr. McDonald says.
The Senior Gleaners are helping to salvage some of that food for those in need, and in the process they feel rewarded by making a difference and also feel younger.
“We’ve still got a lot of good years in us, and we can help a lot of people. And, that’s the main thing,” says Shirley Elwell, one of the volunteers, who at age 72 drives a fork lift at the Senior Gleaners’ warehouse/ packing center.
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