News / USA

Volunteer Farm Feeds the Hungry

Virginia farm supplies tons of fresh produce to area food banks

Children with a church group help harvest potatoes that will be sent to area food banks to help feed the hungry.
Children with a church group help harvest potatoes that will be sent to area food banks to help feed the hungry.

Multimedia

Audio

Hunger in the United States is nothing compared to hunger in some parts of the world.  Nevertheless, 10 million American households report that they do not always know where they will find their next meal according to "Hunger in America 2010."

The report by Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief charity in the U.S., also says that each week, more than 5.5 million Americans turn to emergency food sources such as food pantries.  Most of what they find in these charitable dispensaries is bottled, canned or dry goods.

But at a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, fresh food is being harvested to feed the hungry.  

Volunteer farm

It looks like a lot of other produce farms, with rows of pepper, tomato and cucumber plants.

But nothing harvested here goes to market. Retired government worker Bob Blair owns the 26 hectares of land, but leases it to the Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah for $1 a year. "I woke up one morning and there was the idea firmly implanted in my head with all of the details, including the name, Volunteer Farm," he says.

Retired government worker Bob Blair leases his land to the Volunteer Farm for $1 a year.
Retired government worker Bob Blair leases his land to the Volunteer Farm for $1 a year.

A manager and a volunteer coordinator are the farm's only paid staff. As its name suggests, the farm relies on volunteers to weed, plant and harvest. Blair says in the seven years the farm has operated, it has had over 10,000 volunteers. They have come from nearly every U.S. state and 26 foreign countries.

One a recent day, a group from Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church drove more than 100 kilometers to collect potatoes from a field. The majority of the volunteers, more than 50, were children.

Volunteering at the farm gives children a tangible way of knowing they've made a difference, says church leader Harriet Thompson.
Volunteering at the farm gives children a tangible way of knowing they've made a difference, says church leader Harriet Thompson.

Lesson learned

Harriet Thompson, one of the church leaders, says that after a few hours working in the sun, "the children go to bed extra tired, but they know in a very physical and tangible way that they have made a difference."  She says the church has been volunteering at the farm for a few years. "There are many individuals within our community that would not have enough to sustain them or their family throughout the week if it wasn't for this farm."

Produce from the Volunteer Farm is distributed through large food banks - warehouses where representatives of smaller, community agencies, like soup kitchens and pantries, get food for their clients.

"We received last year, approximately 71,000 pounds of fresh produce from the Volunteer Farm," says Teresa Yates, Operations Director of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Network.

These 26 hectares of land are leased to the Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah to help provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the hungry.
These 26 hectares of land are leased to the Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah to help provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the hungry.

She says the fruits and vegetables are important for proper nutrition. "We have so many issues with obesity now. Fresh produce is the way to go, especially for our children. It's healthier, so much better for their bodies and we are able to provide so much with the Volunteer Farm."

Free and fresh

Yates says the food bank has seen an increase in demand for assistance over the past four years, from 65,000 clients a month seeking food for their families to nearly 100,000.  

Even in Middleburg, Virginia, an affluent community of about 600 people surrounded by manicured estates and prosperous farms, some people rely on the Seven Loaves food pantry to help feed their families.

"We have a number of elderly who may have worked on those farms or in labor-type jobs who are retired and trying to get by on a relatively low social security income," says George Lengauer, president of the ecumenical faith-based, volunteer organization.

The food Seven Loaves distributes comes from many sources, but most is in cans or boxes. Lengauer says the Volunteer Farm's contributions are special.  

"We do have supermarkets in the area who contribute to us and some of them give us the gleanings off their produce aisle, which is good and nice. But any time you can get farm fresh produce, it is a real treat."

So far this year, the Volunteer Farm has harvested 5,500 kilograms of vegetables and the food will keep coming until the middle of October.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid