What do the National Resource Conservation Service , Farm Service Agency, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and 16 tons of watermelons have in common? These USDA agencies have joined together in Southeastern Missouri to donate literally tons of watermelon to the food banks in Sikeston and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. This massive donation is the result of gleaning, which is the act of collecting excess foods from farmers markets, farms, stores, restaurants, gardens and elsewhere and donating that food to those in need.
The first gleaning endeavor took place in August after SWCD District Technician Brad Kenedy noticed Mississippi County farmer Keith Edwards’ watermelon field on his way home from work. He saw an opportunity to make a difference and contacted the farmer, who graciously delayed preparing the field for next season so USDA employees and friends could pick up the excess watermelon. 14,145 pounds of watermelons were donated to a local food bank the next day.
A few days after the first gleaning event, County Executive Director Chris Grojean received an offer from local farmer Donnie Beggs to glean his watermelon field. Word about this second gleaning and the need for employees to volunteer quickly spread to neighboring county USDA offices. At the end of August, a group of volunteers gathered and picked the excess watermelons from the field. These watermelons were then transported – all 19,407 pounds - to the Southeast Missouri Food Bank.
The total for these two days of gleaning 33,552 pounds, or 16.78 tons of watermelon! This has been a great help to the Feds Feed Families food drive for summer 2012.
This week, OPM is recognizing USDA employees and staff from other federal departments and agencies for their participation in the Feds Feed Families food drive. Feds Feed Families is a nation-wide federal employee effort to re-stock the shelves of food banks and pantries over the summer months when need is high but supplies are generally lower. USDA was challenged to donate 1.8 million pounds of food throughout the summer months, and exceeded that goal by collecting a whopping 2.77 million pounds of food for donation!
- USDA employees and friends at the watermelon field just after picking watermelons. The watermelons were donated to food banks in Sikeston and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.