ASAP likes to share the stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month we’re talking to Polly Phillips, WNC gleaning coordinator for the Society of St. Andrew (pictured with volunteer Jennifer Murphy). The Society of St. Andrew works to reduce food waste and feed communities through gleaning, collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields. The Society has also gleaned from Asheville City Market, and now ASAP Farmers Market, since 2015.
Can you describe how gleaning works at the farmers market?
Every Saturday our dedicated volunteer, Jennifer Murphy, goes to the market around 11:30, when things are beginning to wrap up. She leaves boxes and baskets for vendors to fill up with excess food. Most of the vendors know Jennifer by name, since she has been gleaning for the past couple of years. She enjoys building relationships with vendors and making small talk with regulars. Then the food is immediately distributed after everything is collected.
The Society of St. Andrew has been working with the market since 2015. Can you quantify how much food that is?
Roughly, it’s 69,959 pounds of food. We estimate three servings per pound for 209,877 servings of food. So, a lot of food! And a big thank you to our vendors!
Where does the food go?
Currently the food goes to the Battery Park Apartments (low-income elder housing downtown) and City Terrace Apartments (city-owned low-income housing community).
Besides the market, how many farms do you work with in Western North Carolina?
In 2020, we’ve worked with 55 different providers so far. I’ll add the caveat that they’re not all technically farms since we do glean from some bakeries at farmers markets. We’ve worked with 322 providers since 2015.
What’s been your favorite part since taking on this role?
I grew up in WNC, but I never really appreciated or even realized the number of small farms in our area! It’s been a pleasure getting to know a side of my hometown that I never connected with. The rural farming community is full of hard-working individuals who love what they do. The farms that host gleaning events really believe in the mission that no food should go to waste.
It’s also been really rewarding to see how many different food connection services we have in WNC that are looking to make fresh produce more accessible to all. Lots of organizations have made steps toward putting the power back into the people’s hands by including educational pieces, like recipes that can be made with the food or creating more of a shopping experience rather than just giving a bag of food.
Also, gleaning in fun! We’re out in the elements, chatting, enjoying the beautiful landscape and making connections with others—which is so so important right now.
If you are a farm interested in hosting a gleaning event, email Polly at email@example.com.