Produce surplus going to those in need

MULLICA HILL, N.J. (WPVI) -- Fresh produce isn't affordable for many hungry families, but farmers and volunteers in Glouscester County, New Jersey are helping out by picking leftover tomatoes for the needy.

At the Grasso Girls Farm in Mullica Hill, volunteers were in the fields Wednesday gleaning tomatoes, collecting surplus produce from the vine as part of the non-profit Farmers Against Hunger program.

"One in six people is hungry in New Jersey and across the US and it makes sense to collect what we can that would be wasted otherwise and distribute to people who need fresh, healthy food," Elyse Yerrapathruni of Farmers Against Hunger said.

Over 20 volunteers from the US Department of Agriculture were at the farm picking from the Grasso's 10 acres of tomatoes.

The produce will go to four distribution sites in South Jersey, then shared with over 70 different churches, soup kitchens and food pantries.

"This would normally go to waste so this way it's being utilized and consumed by someone who needs it," volunteer Nicole Ciccaglione said.

"This way everybody gets produce that might not look great, but it tastes just as delicious," Mary Lynn Shiles of Grasso Girls Farm said.

The program was started 20 years ago by New Jersey farmers who wanted to donate surplus crops. Over 7,500 people benefit each week from what's gleaned at dozens of farms.

The glean teams collect over a million pounds of produce every year. That's food that might sit in the field and rot instead of making its way to a hungry family.

"It feels really good to know that we are helping others and that food is going to use which is what all the farmers want their foods to do - for people to eat it and enjoy it," Danielle Tocco of Grasso Girls Farm said.

"It's just a great experience to try to give your two hours to try to help families that can't afford this produce to make ends meet," volunteer Al DiBella said.

That couple hours was well spent.

The volunteers picked 4,000 pounds of tomatoes that'll be on dinner tables in the next few days.
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