Spring Intern Lucie Flynn and Kendra Milligan take the global position of a plum tree on 12th Street as part of the Grant County Gleaning Project,which hopes to harvest more locally grown food by mapping fruit trees and gardens. The effort was inspired by local anti-hunger activist, Marcus Woodard's map of edibles and fruit trees located in downtown Silver City. (Courtesy Photo)

Grant County, New Mexico, April 2, 2013: "Waste not, want not," says an old adage, but according to the Fruit and Agricultural Organization over 52 percent of fruit and vegetables go to waste each year.  A new project hopes that by mapping fruit trees and backyard gardens more locally grown food can be harvested; thus, keeping it from going to waste in Grant County.

The Gleaning Project is spearheaded Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC), the Grant County Community Health Council and Western New Mexico University Natural Sciences Department. Also a partner is the Volunteer Center, which oversees the local food pantry.

The project focuses on gleaning existing fruit trees and gardens. Gleaning means to harvest after the regular gathers, taking food that might otherwise go to waste.  The Project intends to connect fruit tree and garden owners with volunteers to glean extra produce for a portion of the crop. An additional portion would benefit local anti-hunger programs.

HKHC Project Assistant, Ali Jensen, says, "In efforts to create a self-sustaining community, utilizing what we already have is essential." Jensen is mapping Grant County food resources as part of HKHC efforts to make local healthy food more available to families.

The project was inspired by Marcus Woodard, a local anti-hunger activist. Woodard created a map of fruit trees and other edibles available around downtown Silver City.  Woodard says, "I saw so much fruit that went unpicked on trees, just rotting.  I wanted to see the trees that had community access get harvested to feed people."

According to Woodard, his map has inspired community food mapping in California, as well as the local Gleaning Project. The map has previously been for sale at Javalina's Coffee House and the Silver City Farmers' Market.

Health Council staff, Kendra Milligan is helping with the effort, "People in my neighborhood have fruit trees and don't know what to do with all the fruit every year. This way they can get help harvesting, get a portion of the produce and know the extra food is going to a good cause."

Federal and State Good Samaritan Laws protect the owner for the charitable food donation. Participants' addresses will be kept confidential, and gleaners will contact participants prior to harvesting.

Milligan says, "We have no intention of stealing people's fruit. Instead, we want to better connect the community so food doesn't go to waste and everyone benefits."

In April, the Gleaning Project will be collecting tree locations at Earth Day and the Home and Garden Show.  The final project will be presented at the WNMU Academic Research Symposium on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at the Miller Library.

HKHC is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to advance community-based solutions to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. The Gila Regional Medical Center Foundation administers HKHC.

Recently, HKHC received a Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Foundation's Community Investment Fund award to sponsor Fit Families, a family-oriented program to improve health.
 
Registration is now open for Fit Families sessions located in the Mining District and Silver City.

For more information on Fit Families, the Gleaning Project or to register trees or gardens call Jensen or Milligan at (575) 388-1198 or email: healthcouncil@grmc.org.

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