Posted on 24 January 2013 by admin
As North Americans, we live in the most wasteful society on Earth.
Many of our products are disposable. Massive amounts of excess packaging fill our landfill sites – a euphemism for “dumps.”
The resources that go into producing this waste could be much better used.
Even food is often wasted when it doesn’t sell and spoils as a result. Worse, food is sometimes dumped simply because it doesn’t meet cosmetic standards or because so much has been produced that it is in surplus.
In other parts of the world, the materials and food we waste are often very scarce in supply.
In far too many countries, the poor even comb the dumps looking for food to consume and materials to recycle or reuse.
To some people, waste here in the face of scarcity elsewhere is outright sinful.
That’s the view that motivates many of the volunteers with the Okanagan Gleaners.
Volunteers such as Wally Hlewka, a snowbird from Saskatchewan who has become a proud Osoyoos resident during the winter months.
Whether or not you share the religious beliefs of gleaners like Hlewka, it’s hard not to be inspired by the conviction, faith and passion they put into their work – turning Canada’s waste into food for the world’s poor.
The Okanagan Gleaners were founded in 1994 and they operate from a somewhat rundown former tobacco farm near Oliver.
Their mission is to salvage good food that would otherwise go to waste, dry it, and turn it into packaged soup to send to the needy in dozens of countries around the world.
Throughout the year, they gather food donations mainly from farmers, but also from food processors.
Much of it is simply surplus or “seconds,” food that doesn’t look cosmetically perfect enough to appear in Canadian stores.
And throughout the year they chop and dry the food they gather, storing it in barrels until January.
At the start of January, teams of volunteers gather at the Oliver location to mix the dried food into the soup packages that are sent around the world.
“We have so much, and if it wasn’t for organizations like this, everything you see here would be in the compost,” Hlewka said. “Every time that pail goes by, 100 kids get fed.”
The volunteers, who are mainly of retirement age, appear to be happy in their work.
It may be partly the fun they are having working with a group of like-minded people.
It may be the satisfaction they feel knowing they are accomplishing a greater good.
Those like Hlewka see their work as a way to pass along God’s blessing.
The problems of global poverty and waste are far too big to be solved by the actions of one small organization like the Okanagan Gleaners.
Still, we have no doubt that the people who benefit from their generosity are grateful for what they receive.
It is, however, inspiring to see a group of people motivated by idealism and conviction to do such positive work for humanity beyond our borders.
Perhaps even more important, the work of the Okanagan Gleaners serves as food for thought – about what we as a society consume, and what we waste, when so many are in need.
Kudos are in order to all of the volunteers with the Okanagan Gleaners for a job well done and for working together to make a real difference in this often crazy world we live in.