In order to answer the question – “How do we become better stewards of our resources while providing healthy meals for our guests?” - the Gathering started the Fresh Produce Preservation Project. The project started in 2010 with just a dozen volunteers. These volunteers prepared produce donations from farms, gardeners and food banks around the area. The produce was then frozen and added to the Gathering’s community meals (breakfast, dinner and Saturday lunch) throughout the winter months.
Now, over 7000 pounds of produce and 75 volunteers later, the project is gearing up for its third season. Already this season (after just two preservation sessions) volunteers have prepared 148 pounds of tomatoes and 40 pounds of green beans. These vegetables will be used in soups, lasagnas, sauces and other delicious, nutritious dishes in the coming months. Even now, while you are reading this, faithful produce volunteers are rolling up their sleeves, tightening their apron strings and snapping on their hair nets in preparation for a large donation of bell peppers that just arrived.
One such faithful produce volunteer is Janet. Janet has been a volunteer with the produce preservation project since the beginning. Janet first heard about the project through her church. She made connections with other volunteers and had such a great time that she kept coming back: “The community spirit of the Gathering is what keeps me coming. I love the talking and slicing together” Janet said. Janet spent the majority of the past two produce sessions stuffing and weighing freezer bags full of peeled tomatoes and fresh green beans and is looking forward to more produce in the weeks to come.