Amherst to organize mass harvesting to feed the hungry

Published: Monday, July 30, 2012, 10:57 PM

AMHERST – A group of people interested in growing more food in town is looking for some volunteers to help plan and implement a community-wide gleaning event this harvest to help feed the hungry here.

On Tuesday, members will be holding a planning meeting at 7 p.m. in the Bangs Community Center.

This gleaning – which is a gathering of crops that would be left in the field – is part of a larger resident-led initiative to grow more local food, said Stephanie Ciccarello, the town’s sustainability coordinator.

The town is offering help by providing meeting space “and getting information out there to get people more connected with the food they eat.”

This all started with a meeting that involved Ciccarello, W. David Ziomek, director of conservation and development, and John Gerber, a University of Massachusetts professor involved in a variety of local food endeavors.

The gleaning initiative is called Feed our Neighbors and the plan is to stage a gleaning at the end of the harvest at a few town farms to collect what’s not harvested by farmers. Then the food would be given to the Survival Center and other groups and families, she said.

“The reality is there are people that need food. This is a way to have the community get it out to them,” Ciccarello said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, more than any other material category but paper.

The gleaning, though, “It’s a part of something bigger.” Called Growing Food in Community, the group is “looking beyond the community garden (model) to grow more food in town,” Ciccarello said.

She said there are just two community gardens and they have accessibility and water issues.

The group wants to create a website where they can pair people looking to farm or garden with people who might have land or need help farming or gardening. They would be able to use the website to find a match. The helper would be able to keep some of what is grown and the farmer would be able to cut down on waste.

For more information, contact Ciccarello at (413) 259-3149 or by email at