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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid