Gleaning in the Greenbelt

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I know lots of people wear sunscreen to work each day, but I usually don’t. However on July 15th I clearly should have as I traveled to Markham to speak as a part of a panel of organizers and funders and be a part of celebrating a Community Harvest Launch Event – where something special was in the air.

Change.

Despite the developing sunburns and mid-summer Ontario humidity, people from all walks of life gathered to hear about this new project – inciting a renewed sense of community, a replenished reason for why I keep working where I do; and highlighting why the Greenbelt is so vitally important to Ontarians.

Community Harvest Ontario, a project by the Ontario Association of Food Banks works with farmers to grow, and volunteers to glean, fresh fruits and vegetables for individuals and families who are in need of a little help along the way. Last year, a group of Volunteers from Direct Energy gathered over 12 thousand pounds of food in just one day – one day. Think about how many families using their local food bank had a Thanksgiving dinner with fresh vegetables because of this small group.

Over one of the best cobbler’s I’ve tasted, I met a volunteer - let’s call her Mary. This is Mary’s 2nd time gleaning and she said something that really struck a chord. She told me that for years she’s wanted to volunteer her time for something, but she feels that it takes some much commitment and dedication required that she could never make it work for her - my guess is that a lot of people are in the same situation. Being able to go out for one or two days and give back definitely has its appeal and it’s exactly what this project is all about. It is easy to help out, it makes an immediate difference and it make so much sense.

It comforts me to know that initiatives like this one are seeing so much success in breaking down barriers between the rich and not so rich, making local, fresh and healthy food, much of it grown at farms like Whittamore’s and Plan B Organics in Ontario’s Greenbelt, more accessible to everyone.

-- Susan Murray is the Director of Communications for the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation

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