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Visalia Gleaning Seniors

Jan 19, 2021 02:47PM ● By Rachel Trigueiro

Seniors Helping Seniors

By Rachel Trigueiro
December 2020 | January 2021

What started as a group of seniors gleaning fruit from the fields in 1976 has grown into daily drop offs of food for seniors in the Visalia area with Visalia Gleaning Seniors. 

Gleaning, the age-old agricultural tradition of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after harvest, dates back to biblical times: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.”

This ancient practice is still relevant today, reminding us to care for the poor or vulnerable in our communities. While Visalia Gleaning Seniors no longer collects food from orchards, their mission stands, ensuring seniors have enough food.

Local farmers and packinghouses donate fresh fruits and vegetables year round. Nearby bakeries and grocery stores donate day-old baked goods, breads and other sweets. Visalia Gleaning collects the donated goods and sorts and delivers them daily to different drop points in the city. “Drop points consist of members who agree to have food delivered to their home and then are willing to call the other members in their area to pick up their food,” says President Judie Casey. This communal process, resembling a mobile food bank, meets people right in their neighborhoods, while building relational bonds. 

While the pandemic has affected everyone, Gleaning’s most vital operations continued amidst shutdowns. “We were very fortunate during COVID,” Casey says. “Though we were closed quite a while, our deliveries did not stop. Our drivers delivered all the way through and people still got their food.”

An annual $60 membership with Visalia Gleaning allows members to collect groceries at least three times per week from their drop location. In an average daily pick up, seniors receive seasonal fruits and vegetables, sliced bread, organic bread, cookies, cakes or pies. “They get basically everything they’d need except for meat and they can come several times a week. The membership fee is paid for in just a couple weeks’ time and the rest of the year it’s like their food is free,” Casey says. Members must be at least 50 years of age and are asked to volunteer four hours monthly on site.

Visalia Gleaning relies completely on donated items and fundraising events to keep the operation going. Unfortunately, statewide constraints have limited their 2020 opportunities. The team is continuously on the lookout for new grocery stores, bakeries or farmers to partner with, and they also accept gently used items for the four thrift shops on the premises. Their large annual fundraising yard sale and raffle will be safely hosted with precautions in place, open to the public on December 3-5.

The concept of gleaning was to leave margin in the fields and expect strangers to show up in need. In other words, it was a call to unite and help one another, person to person, regardless of similarities or differences. Our lives would benefit greatly by leaving more margin in our days for each other and organizations like Visalia Gleaning Seniors in this season.

Visalia Gleaning Seniors • (559) 733-5352

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