Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pecha Kucha at the Stonington Opera House

On Tuesday the Stonington Opera House held a Pecha Kucha Night where eight different presenters were given 6,6 minutes to show 20 images x 20 seconds to explain each image.

"Pecha Kucha Night, now in over 700 cities, was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public" (

This has now become a widespread format for communities to engage in social, fun and informative nights welcoming different people with many interests.

This is how the Gleaning Initiative's Pecha Kucha went:

 1.   Imagine sitting at an incredibly bountiful table filled with good, healthy, and safe food. Imagine denying hungry people a seat at that table. Imagine, if you can possibly manage, that we then take half of that bounty on that table and just throw it away, right in front of these hungry neighbors. Unfortunately this is not a bad dream, it is very real right here in Downeast Maine!

2.   You might recognize this painting by Lhermitte: “The Gleaners”… a bucolic image of people coming in after the harvest to hand pick what was missed by machines. In the Old Testament gleaning shows up as a mandate of the church for farmers to leave the four corners of their fields unharvested to allow the less fortunate to come through and glean. The bible mentions Ruth the gleaner. You might say I am Hannah the gleaner. 

3.  The tradition of gleaning, however, is not merely ancient, it is in fact quite contemporary as well. I ran into this couple in Barcelona Spain at an outdoor community meal, and this gentleman started talking to me. As a boy, he would go out after the almond harvest, where they used the tree shaking technique. He would collect whatever had been left behind and sell it to an old man in the village who was home-bound.

    4. Gleaning is about not letting food nor people fall through the cracks. It is about creating a safety net, about taking out our old blueberry rakes, our old traditions, and going out to make sure we are putting food that we all pay for, with resources and money, and that we all waste, back on the table to support those who are experiencing times of need.

5.   This is chard from the Jackson Lab Wellness Program garden, part of University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger program. All gardeners are welcome to participate in this program growing an extra row in their backyard to feed those in our community who are experiencing hunger. We are also exploring ways to introduce nutritious foods such as chard into the diets of those who may not always know how to use it.

6.  Why does food go to waste? One reason is cosmetics. It’s not perfect. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t “look good”. Farmers can’t sell it. My grandmother sent me a quote the other day, the title of which read “perfection is the enemy of good”. The Gleaning Initiative works for the common good, to get high quality food such as this imperfect apple to someone who can’t afford it in the store.

7.  Our focus is on farms because in this way we are able to complement the work of other partners and focus on increasing the amount of high quality fresh, local produce that reaches pantries and community meal sites. We work alongside other programs like Good Shepherd Food Bank’s “Mainers Feeding Mainers” to build lasting relationships between food pantries and community meal sites and their local farms.
  8. Because a lot of the food that is redistributed to food security organizations is surplus food from the industry, such as canned goods, processed food, and high starch products, these are not always the healthiest options, nor do they meet some of the diet restrictions of the community members we are trying to serve. A lot of people are searching for access to more fruits and vegetables, and gleaning is another way for community members to access this directly. 

 9. Volunteerism is essential to the well-being of our community. For decades food pantries in Hancock County have been serving our community with free food, again surplus from our food industry. But if we are going to serve seconds to struggling sectors of our community, they might as well be the best quality, most nutritious seconds from our very own local farms.
10. Here we have King Hill Farm’s Amanda Provencher explaining to volunteers how to harvest… The Gleaning Initiative brings a new form of volunteerism to our community, keeping an aging population active and bringing people who might not otherwise make it out to a local farm into a healthy active environment. They experience a new form of community service that is as fulfilling to the gleaner as it is to the farmer and the recipient of food.
11. Homeschooling and working with schools through the Gleaning Initiative can provide an outdoor education opportunity for kids who might have trouble following the traditional model of education. It is an alternative way to understanding the circle of life, nutrient cycles, recycling, and experiencing food first hand. There’s plenty of research about how these types of experiences affect young people’s willingness to eat vegetables and fruit.

12.   The Cooperative Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger program, under which the Gleaning Initiative was created, in partnership with Healthy Acadia, is currently partnering with Garden Clubs, Home Growers, and Community Gardnes, to help support the efforts of the food security organizations in Hancock County. The Jackson Lab community garden delivered 600 pounds of food to us last season, all done through their Wellness Program’s employee garden.

13. Building work exchange opportunities out of the Gleaning Initiative is key to providing some of our unemployed community members with an opportunity to engage in fulfilling their own needs. But it is important to remember that a lot of the people we are serving through the food pantry and community mealsites are actually working more hours than many will ever work to make ends meet. They don’t always have the time!

14.  A subsidized CSA program where people paid $5 to fill their bag with organic locally produced vegetables was a hit last year as pantry patrons experienced top-quality food at reduced prices. They could either pay in advance the $50 that got them $200 worth of vegetables, or they could use the pay as you go system. Farmers and community members were thrilled to be a part of this program, and we hope to follow-up with a new program this Fall 2014.

 15. It is important for the Gleaning Initiative to have a back up to deal with the inevitable food that might, despite our efforts, not be able to reach people. We need to compost and we need to feed pigs! This is why we are, together with David’s Folly Farm and the Tree of Life, spearheading a project to have community members help us to buy local farm livestock products for the pantry. The Gleaning Initiative will find ways to feed these pigs food that would otherwise be wasted and in that way attempt to off-set the cost of grain.

16. LeanPath Technology is changing the game of food waste prevention by providing a system that tracks food waste as it is produced in kitchens of hospitals, universities, schools, hotels and restaurants. By knowing and measuring what we waste we can better manage and categorize the waste streams either by source or by destination, strategically placing each waste product to become a resource rather than a cost.

17. Just like Steve Jobs revolutionized our culture with Apple products, innovative programs like LeanPath can revolutionize our culture with food waste prevention technologies that drive behavior of employees in the food industry. Together we can build a labor force that is aware, careful and curious about the collective ways in which we can mitigate the negative impact of food waste on our economy, ecology and social equity.

18. Our supermarkets are up against a difficult task to provide us with the convenience, abundance and variety that we are now trained to expect when we embark on our shopping experiences. They know and dislike more than anyone the amount of food wasted in their stores. Our Hannafords and Shaws are major supporters of Good Shepherd Food Bank and local food security sites, and yet food still goes to waste every day despite successful gleaning. We are working to improve our systems!
19. Our Farmers’ Markets are also producing food waste. There are many things farmers do with this waste, but they are happy when they can give it to an organization that will ensure the quality is upheld and that it gets to community members who can’t otherwise access such food. We are also supporting farmers by tracking their surplus, and helping them place their products in alternative markets when possible.
20. Our next step is to build a food processing network to take on the products that we are having a hard time placing and turn them into meals and value-added opportunities. Now imagine a local culinary job training program for at-risk students and adults whose work becomes a social catering business for home-bound community members, seniors suffering from chronic illnesses and families experiencing forms of poverty. This is a dream, let’s make it real!

Thanks to the Stonington Opera House for a great event!

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