Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day 1725 - Gleaning

For a while now, we've been looking for ways to involve Ruth in some sort of volunteering or community service.  This is harder than you might think!  I went around a few times with Food Not Bombs before being told by the woman hosting that she didn't want kids in her house. We set up a whole kid-friendly thing for the class a friend and I taught at the Baltimore Free School... only to show up with Ruth and have them, oh wow, the place where the classes meet isn't lead-abated.  And I'm currently waiting for a couple food serving places that don't just rule out kids on their website to even call me back.  After talking to one of their coordinators when I went by to help write Christmas cards for people in local prisons, I've got high hopes that if the Pleasant Hope Church resurrects their social justice committee, Ruth will at least be able to come and hang out - but the goal has really been to get her involved in something she can contribute to in an age-appropriate way.

Well, we may have found it! On Saturday, Ruth, Melissa, and I went out to Zahdraka Farm in Essex to do some gleaning with Gather Baltimore.

For those of you who may not know what gleaning is, it's a tradition (with deep roots at least in Judaism, though I'm sure it has other resonances) of gathering food from the fields that was not harvested/sold, and distributing it to the poor.

Gather Baltimore is a keen organization that has been around for a bit, but (so they told us when we were out there) is only recently scaling up and organizing to have regular volunteers. It started out as a couple of guys and their friends collecting unsold food from the Baltimore Farmers' Market, and has rapidly expanded. They're now partnered with (among other places - but as one guy told me, they need to work with places that can accept literally tons of food, which not every small service organization can) the Franciscan Center, Our Daily Bread, and Movable Feast, and the guy who started the whole thing is currently an Open Society Fellow.

From the start, Ruth was a fan of the set-up. We drove out to the farm, and as soon as the organizers got there, there were donuts for her.  You can't beat carbo-loading while helping those in need.  Seriously, Ruth has turned down the offer of almost anywhere else I will take her for lunch when we're hanging out ("do you want to fly to New York City on an airplane and go to Le Cirque?") to go to Dunkin' Donuts.

They started us on gathering russian kale, and Ruth was eager to help.  Cutting the stems was a little hard for her, but she loved getting to help by piling the cut leaves into the bins.

(I can't fix the weird picture placement. It's a blog. Live with it).

Ultimately, Ruth hooked up with the other little girl there (who was "five and nine-tenths") and they proceeded to smash their boots through every ice-frosted puddle of water within half a mile.  By the time we were done with the kale rows, as you can see, Ruth was pretty thoroughly be-mudded.  We hadn't thought ahead to bring a change of clothes, so the cold mud and soaked-through boots meant that we needed to head out.  But Ruth had fun, as did Melissa and I, and we're looking forward to going back the next time they have a volunteer day.

Next time, we'll bring waterproof pants and/or a change of clothes!