Volunteers glean sweet potatoes for Eagle’s Wings

Published 7:25 am Sunday, October 21, 2007

By Staff
800 bags collected for county’s hungry
By Patti Trujillo, Special to the Daily News
KINSTON—Under a Carolina blue sky and benefited by a brisk breeze, 19 people unaccustomed to hard labor worked Saturday to glean 800 bags of sweet potatoes for the hungry in Beaufort County.
The laborers were from Washington’s First Presbyterian Church led by Darryl Evans, president of the board of Eagle’s Wings, and Frank Belote, the group’s vice-president, together with a contingent from Purpose of God Outreach Center led by Bishop Sam Jones.
The sweet-potato field belongs to North Carolina State University. The 200 plus-acre farm was left to the school for agricultural research by farmer Raymond P. Cunningham 25 years ago. After the school completes its sample taking and measurements, 90 percent of the crops are left in the field.
The Society of St. Andrew through the Gleaning Network’s Bill Waller, eastern area coordinator, sees that the food is not wasted. SoSA sponsors 30 gleaning events at the farm each year, starting with watermelons and cantaloupes in August on through the fall harvest.
Approximately 36 million Americans regularly go without food and 13.3 million are children, according to the SoSA brochure. “Twenty percent of all food grown in this country is wasted … because it’s not commercially marketable or … missed during mechanical harvesting,” it reads.
Each year 30,000 to 40,000 volunteers glean 15-to 20-million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables providing 45-to 60-million servings of nourishing food to hungry people.
About $110,000 will cover what needs to be done, including buying the property it presently rents, installing a walk-in freezer, adding a fire alarm system and wiring to accommodate a generator and then some, he said.
The bank transaction to buy the property at 932 W. Third Street Washington for Eagle’s Wings will close in the next seven days, Belote said. At that point, all improvements to it will benefit Eagle’s Wings and its clients.
Eagle’s Wings distributes food, a limited amount of prescription medicine, as well as rent and utility payments according to need, to 300 to 400 clients each month. The group receives limited funds from FEMA and from its own Love Fund of private donations for its monetary distributions. Monetary distributions are limited to once a year per family.
Food is distributed according to family size and income. All clients must register and are screened. Each family may receive food once a month. Families are given enough food for two to three weeks Belote said, “so that a family won’t have to choose between food and something else,” like buying medicine or paying rent.
Belote said one third of the clients come regularly, “because their need is permanent.”
He said, “40 percent of our assistance is for children under the age of 18; and it crosses all racial boundaries.”
The gleaners’ truck delivered close to 8,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, enough for 24,000 servings, to Eagle’s Wings.
Jones said, “It’s one thing to do something for people you know, but now we’re doing something for people we don’t know who they’re going to be — we glean for the stranger.”
For more information, visit www.endhunger.org.