Thanks to its dedicated volunteers, the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners Society is able to help feed hungry people around the world.
But more volunteers are needed to continue to process the surplus produce the Gleaners collects from farmers and turns into dehydrated food — about one million pounds of vegetables have been collected this year.
“The farmers can’t use the vegetables, but they’re great to use as ingredients for a soup mix,” said volunteer Brad Egerton. “We process over 4,000 pounds of vegetables a day. We are stewards of the environment, because the food would be unusable otherwise.”
A variety of vegetables is donated by growers to the Gleaners. This does not mean they are inedible but, for a variety of reasons such as being too large or malformed, they may not be suitable for sale in stores.
The gleaners are looking for about 100 volunteers to help at the processing plant in Lavington. In a four-hour shift each volunteer can make food for 1,150 meals.
“That’s enough to feed three people for a year” said Egerton, adding that the dehydrated soup mix is packaged in sealed bags, with 50 countries receiving shipments of the dried soup mix.
Once a year stock is taken and a soup mix recipe is created from the ingredients on hand. The mix is packaged in 100-serving sealed bags, then packed into boxes or drums ready for shipping. Apples are also dehydrated, packaged and shipped as nutritious snacks.
Volunteers arrive daily Monday through Friday to help with the cleaning, chopping and preparation of the produce for the dehydration, as well as packaging the final product. These volunteers may be seniors, members of local churches, groups from schools and clubs, or individuals and families from the local communities.
First the vegetables are cleaned, cut and sorted. Then they are dried for 18 hours to dehydrate them. The entire process takes about 20 hours, 18 of which are spent in the oven.
Volunteer Gord Huston has been with the Gleaners since 2007.
“I get to do a lot of things that I’ve never done before,” he said. “What the people find here is that they’re physically able to do something that they’re able to see is going somewhere directly — one person can feed an orphanage lunch.”
The North Okanagan Valley Gleaners Society was created in the summer of 2007 by a group of individuals who had become acutely aware of the problem of world hunger and the fact that the Okanagan valley is rich in food supplies.
The Gleaners also run a used furniture and appliance store where donated items are sold to help the soup-making process. The store is at 4405-29th St., Vernon.
“There are other charities that look after the local poor,” said Egerton. “We’re looking at donating some of our furniture to the local (less fortunate) so that’s our local responsibility being looked after.”
NOV Gleaners also accept donations of older medical supplies and equipment, which are still in good working order.
Both food and medical equipment are requested by mission organizations who arrange for pickup and shipment to locations around the world where the food or equipment are desperately needed.
“Gleaning” comes from Leviticus 23:22, the Bible Scripture which states “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.”
Volunteers are welcome a few hours once a week or whenever you are available. The plant is open Monday to Friday and the occasional Saturday. No appointment or advance notice is needed — just show up at 8 a.m. and the plant managers will get you working at a task that suits you. By 11:30 a.m., volunteers are usually cleaning up and are finished by noon.
Groups are welcome and the Gleaners will do their best to accommodate your availability. Please call the plant or e-mail to schedule the best time for your group: firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-558-5872.