Are there Quaker foodies out there who watch the antics and try the recipes of the River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall?
You may have seen him recently with a bunch of young people picking fruit on a farm where the harvest had already gone to the supermarkets. These were ‘out of season’ apples and plums which would have been dug in and lost if it hadn’t been for these young people, who are part of an army of volunteers called ‘gleaners.’
Gleaners go back a long way, even to biblical times, when after harvest landowners let people from their estates collect anything that had been missed. It is having something of a revival today and creating a new volunteer opportunity which is making a lot of quite nice fruit available freely to people who might only be able to look at juicy Victoria plums in the shops. I believe this is called a ‘win-win’ situation. The farmer is saved the job of disposing of unwanted fruit, the volunteers have a lot of fun and hard-up people get some bruised but delicious free fruit.
If my tone appears scornful it isn’t intended. This is a great scheme – not least because at last the rejection of agricultural produce that isn’t perfect is starting to look like the obscene practice it is. Gleaners are busy all over the UK now collecting damaged, odd-shaped fruit and veg which is perfectly fit to eat but is usually junked on cosmetic grounds.
Gleaning is just part of a whole new industry developing around the phenomenon of Food Banks. This is the less glamorous side to the story and unlikely to be appearing on any fun foodie programme. More likely they will increasingly appear in news bulletins as their numbers blossom and the UK population becomes aware that they are truly with us once again. Jesus said the poor are always with us – but in tones of disappointment and disbelief.
Quakers in the north-east who read the Friend magazine may know that it runs an investigative unit which produces The Fox Report, a series of in-depth looks at troubling matters: the stress of members of the armed forces returning from battle; the insidious effect of liberalised gambling legislation; the unfairness of young unemployed people eager to work and learn being exploited with unpaid internships.
Well, Fox is coming to the north-east and Quakers here will have the opportunity to become investigative reporters on an issue of our times. Are you disappointed and disbelieving that people are becoming so poor that they need donated food in a designated centre to feed themselves? Have you asked yourselves questions about this unannounced development?
Fox needs eyes and ears to report on Food banks, both locally and regionally. There are many issues surrounding the banks and how they will be managed in future. There is already talk in food manufacturing and agri-business about the possibility of newly created markets for that ‘distorted’ and rejected food which is currently a part of some food bank free produce. What will happen if the source of food donation dries up? Thousands have become dependent on food from a bank. Food commerce, like any other branch of business, is committed to cutting waste and streamlining production. Its success in this will prove challenging in the world of feeding the poor.
If you have any information to help the Fox Report, or would like to help with reporting, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through this site. Please let me know if you have any journalistic experience.