Food Banks Finding Aid in Bounty of Backyard
By Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times
September 13, 2008
Thus was born North Berkeley Harvest, part of a small but expanding movement of backyard urban gleaners — they might be called fruit philanthropists — who voluntarily harvest surplus fruit and then donate it to food banks, centers for the elderly and other nonprofit organizations.
The concept of gleaning, or collecting a portion of crops on farmers’ fields for the needy, before or after harvesting, goes back to ancient cultures. But it has more recently been taken up by people like Joni Diserens, a 43-year-old program manager for Hewlett-Packard and founder of Village Harvest in Silicon Valley.
Ms. Diserens uses sophisticated databases and remote telephone answering systems to track the group’s 700 or so volunteers, 40 receiving organizations, 1,000 fruit-inundated homeowners and, on a recent Tuesday, 780 sticky pounds of French prunes.
“You feel like you’re actually doing something,” Diana Foss, 44, a former astronomer who is now a stay-at-home mother, said as she was sorting plums and prunes recently in Ms. Leone’s backyard. “You pick a piece of fruit and know that someone’s going to eat it.”