Poverty, FISH and Gleaning
Early in October an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my eye. The editorial cited a study released by Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequity that recalculated poverty using the California Poverty Measure that factors in the high cost of housing and the use of safety net benefits. The result is that 2 million more people in California are below the poverty level. Further, 25% of children fall into poverty and poverty is closely linked to poor academic achievement that creates and sustains a host of other issues.
Historically FISH has been the safety new of last resort. Three days worth of food has sustained both families and the elderly when money and benefits run out. Rental assistance has kept numerous families from homelessness and rides to medical appointments have really made health care available to many of our valley’s seniors.
Here in Sonoma Valley we are nearing the end of the harvest season and I think that gleaning, a common practice within the agricultural world, might be an interesting metaphor to explore.
Gleaning has been around for thousands of years and has been a mechanism to avoid waste by offering the unharvested or not marketable fruits and vegetables to the needy and the poor. FISH has long been the recipient of fruit and vegetables when supply far surpassed what could be used. Grapes, apples, tomatoes, pears, zucchini and plums are brought to FISH so they can be included in our food boxes. Many of our stores practice gleaning when they donate surplus bakery items and perishable items to FISH.
Our Clothing Closet is, too, the recipient of gleaning. Many individuals go through their closet and identify clothing items that are too large or too small, no longer needed or not quite the right style. These items are donated to FISH and they are redistributed to those who reside in poverty and cannot afford new items.
Many of our volunteers have conducted a gleaning activity as they evaluate their utilization of time. Volunteers set aside time to drive, stock the shelves at the Food Closet, sort through clothes for the Clothing Closet, answer phone call for a day, etc. Others practice gleaning with their checkbooks. Money that is not needed or that is even wasted can be donated to FISH where it will address the needy or the 22% who fall below the poverty level.
During the season of harvest and Thanksgiving, consider some form of gleaning where waste is reduced and the poor and needy are remembered.