Culls and harvested donations made a huge impact in the amount of produce WWCH received this year. The Harvest VISTA would first contact growers to see how much extra produce was available and arranged a pick-up or drop-off. WWCH has access to BMAC vehicles, so if the grower had several bins, a large truck would be sent on a pick-up.
After contact with the donor is made, connect them to the warehouse truck drivers to finalize details of the pick-up. By connecting truck drivers with donors who have cull bins, the Gleaning Coordinator essentially cuts out the middle man and facilitates a sustainable process of donating. Driving 20 to 30 minutes out of the way for a pick-up usually does not pose a problem for warehouse drivers if they are given time to prepare. Try and facilitate a pick-up at a time and location that works well with the driver; i.e. near another stop he/she is making that day. One important detail: if picking up bins at a remote location, make sure the donor has a forklift to lift the bins into a large truck.
Ideally a donor can drop off a bin of produce at the warehouse and come back at a later date to pick up the empty bin. In this situation, the warehouse receives thousands of pounds of fresh produce for little to no effort on the part of the warehouse employees. Make sure to express your gratitude if a donor is willing to drop off produce in this manner!
Remember: flexibility is key in transporting and accepting all donations. Be conscious of the shelf life of donor’s produce and make sure the pick-up is as convenient as possible for the driver’s schedule.
After the produce arrives at warehouse, WWCH is charged with organizing volunteer events to sort and box the produce.
Highlight: VA Medical Center Healing Grounds Garden
Veterans at the Walla Walla VA Medical Center planted, tended to, and harvested a large garden throughout the growing season. They worked in the garden Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 to 9:45 AM. This set schedule made it relatively easy to arrange produce pick-ups. BMAC came to the garden twice a week and transferred the produce from the VA’s wheelbarrow to BMAC’s bins. This took a bit of time and effort but proved worth it: the VA donated over 3,000 pounds in the 2013 growing season from their 100 feet by 35 feet therapeutic garden. The Ag Center of Excellence who supported the VA garden by hosting a Summer VISTA Associate who helped to organize the work parties.
The VISTA sent donation totals to the coordinator of the VA garden every few weeks so that the coordinator could show the quantifiable difference that the garden and veteran volunteers made in the Walla Walla community. This works as a positive feedback loop; the more pounds the VA donates to the BMAC Warehouse, the more funding and support they can apply for through grants, etc. and the more hungry mouths will be fed in the Walla Walla Valley.