Students 4-6

Grade 6, Chapter 19


More About Gleaning

Chapter 19 tells what happened when a parish in Bakersfield, California, found a way to connect hungry people with nourishing food. Those who do this work are called "Gleaners," like Ruth and Naomi in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here's more about gleaning.

Although most people in our country have plenty to eat, hunger is still a serious problem. In fact, one of every 12 American children goes to bed hungry at least some of the time. Hunger would make life difficult for anybody, but it's especially painful for children. It's difficult to concentrate on studying when you haven't had anything to eat since yesterday. Not only that, but a child who doesn't get enough good food won't be able to grow to full height and weight. To make matters worse, hungry children get sick more often than other children do.

The problem is especially sad because in the United States, millions of tons of good food gets thrown away every year. Most of this food ends up in landfills. Some of it is grain that was missed by the harvesting machines when they passed through. Some is fresh produce, meat and dairy products which don't get bought off store shelves by customers. Some is extra food cooked by chefs just in case someone decides to order it at restaurants. The Gleaners realized that this good-quality food could be brought to food banks, which often run out of food because they have so many hungry people asking for help.

There are now volunteer organizations all over America that do the work of gleaning. For instance, the Society of St. Andrew goes out to farms and orchards to pick fruits and vegetables by hand after the machine harvesting is completed. Another group, called From the Wholesaler to the Hungry, delivers unsold produce that's still fresh from stores to food pantries. A group called Foodchain takes cooked food from restaurants, caterers and cafeterias in special refrigerated trucks so that it stays fresh until it gets to a soup kitchen. Second Harvest collects food in cans and boxes for shipment to food banks all over the country.

There's much that students can do to help in this great work of feeding the hungry. For instance, you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. You could raise funds for hunger organizations, or suggest a food drive at your parish or school. You can provide garden tools for local gardeners. You could even donate vegetables you grow yourself. You can write or call your congressperson when issues that affect hungry people come up for a vote. Your school can sponsor an essay contest or a teach-in about hunger issues.

As gleaners everywhere have discovered, bringing food to the hungry is joyful and rewarding work. How can you become a gleaner?