SALEM IN NEED: Salem Harvest volunteers feed families with fresh produce

When volunteers from Salem Harvest go to collect excess produce, it’s a big communal event. (Courtesy/Salem Harvest)

Salem Harvest feeds hungry families by harvesting food that would otherwise go to waste. They work with local area growers and organize volunteers to collect unused crops and get healthy, fresh food into the hands of hungry families. This nonprofit is one of the most efficient groups of its kind in the nation. Since 2010, the organization has saved and donated almost three million pounds of fruits and vegetables (2,603,197 pounds).

Executive Director Elise Bauman says, “It costs us only $0.16 per pound to harvest, and we typically harvest 400,000 pounds per year. These fruits and vegetables are perfectly tasty and healthy but not commercially viable for the grower. The majority of the harvested food goes to well-established food banks for distribution through their existing channels. A portion goes home with volunteers, making our work truly farm to family.”

The group boasts over 3,000 registered volunteers and has shown consistent growth in its first decade. They started with 60 harvests and now average 250 per season.  In 2010 Salem Harvest picked 28,000 pounds of food and now serves up to 1.3 million people with the 408,000  pounds volunteers pick each year.

Bauman said that COVID-19 restrictions have changed the way they operate. They need personal protective equipment for harvesters as well as meeting new OSHA requirements for farm labor. Job loss and economic strain have increased demand for food boxes.

Like many nonprofits, Salem Harvest has had to retool its “Race to Save the Harvest” family fun-run. They will be doing a virtual fundraising race between July 10 and July 20. Their fall Garden Party Fundraiser is still in limbo.

Salem Harvest welcomes donations of paper towels, foaming hand soap, non-latex food-grade, single-use gloves, and single-use face masks.

Financial donations can be made to Salem Harvest at: www.salemharvest.org or by check to P.O. Box 483, Salem, Oregon 97308

To donate non-cash items, email Elise at [email protected] for information.

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing regularly for Salem Reporter.  During the quarantine, she will be connecting with Salem nonprofits.  Tell her about your nonprofit needs at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook.