On Volunteering, Good Apples, and Bad Apples

by Jenny Krueger, Publishing Director for School and Library

We recently had the opportunity to volunteer at Second Harvest Heartland. This  organization collects food from farmers, manufacturers, and retailers around our home state of Minnesota. They then distribute the food to food pantries, soup kitchens, and other organizations that serve those in need. According to Second Harvest, more than 500,000 people in Minnesota alone struggle with hunger. That’s 1 in 10 people every day who don’t have enough to eat. By collecting food for distribution to the community, Second Harvest Heartland also saves millions of pounds of food from going to waste.

We got a first-hand look at their operation and rolled up our sleeves for the project that morning—sorting apples. They had received what I would describe as an enormous shipment of apples. Our task was to sort the apples (and only the good ones—no bad apples here) into smaller, 40-pound boxes. This allows for Second Harvest to ship the apples in a more manageable portion to organizations that need it.

But first we had to learn what makes an apple “good” or “bad.” The apples we were sorting had been rejected by grocery stores (for being too big or too small, for example). But most were perfectly good apples. We could allow for some harmless stippling or discoloration, but we discarded any apples that had mold or what I now know is called “stem rot.” That is to say we put those apples in different crates, because even the bad apples go to use—at pig farms!

It Was A Busy and Fun Morning!

The apples we sorted and boxed would go to food shelves that very day. By the end of our morning shift, we had sorted and packed 12,860 pounds of apples. How do you like them apples! And we had fun doing it, all with the satisfaction of knowing we helped our neighbors in need.

Lerner Publishing Group will continue our relationship with Second Harvest and will be back soon to sort apples, potatoes, onions, rice—whatever the need is that day. Special thanks to Second Harvest Heartland for the work they do in our community and for allowing us to be a part of it. For more information about their work, visit http://www.2harvest.org/.

A great series of books for kids who are interested in the volunteer movement, social justice, the environment, and other issues is Who’s Changing the World. These 5 books are a great way to either start or focus a conversation!

Read more by Jenny.

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