Prairie Gleaners takes donated off-grade surplus vegetables, lentils and beans from growers in the area and processes them to create dehydrated mixes that are distributed to those in need around the world. Past president Ed Codding spoke to members of the Horticulture Society on Monday evening.
The Prairie Gleaners started in 2006 and, at the time, were one of three in Canada. Currently, there are 10 gleaners in Canada. They started in a building down in the Flats, which flooded in 2010, followed by the roof collapsing in Jan. 2011 after a heavy snowfall.
This resulted in moving to their current location in an old meat packing plant off Range Road 63, about four kilometres south of Highway 3. The current building is 6,500 square feet but they decided to expand, as the bottleneck to creating more packages of dried food was due to lack of space and dehydrators. They wanted to be able to process another 50-60 per cent.
Big Marble Farms came forward in early of 2021 and offered to build them another building, a 4,000-square foot addition. Ground was broken in the fall of 2021 and the structure went up in spring of this year. The floor has been poured and walls insulated. Sheet metal was delivered this week for the walls and once the doors are on they can get heat in there to start using it.
Through 2021 the Gleaners weren’t getting any requests for food and had no storage left, resulting in the board wondering if they were no longer needed. Between Dec. 2021 and April 2022, they did four shipments with three different organizations that cleaned them out, equalling about 1.8 million meals, all of which went to Ukraine.
Nutritionally, there is nothing wrong with the vegetables the Gleaners use, but they won’t sell in a supermarket as they aren’t aesthetically perfect. Last year, they processed 290,000 pounds of raw vegetables. The Gleaners only process the food and then work with other agencies, such as Food for the Hungry, who organize transportation to where it is needed.
The Gleaners recommend taking the bag of food and putting it in 25L of water to rehydrate it, making about 100 cups of vegetable soup. It’s often used as a supplement in rice, or curries and stew-like mixtures. In the Philippines they ground it up like flour to make tortillas and it’s also been used to make veggie burgers.
The Gleaners welcome all volunteers and do not require people to sign up for set days and times, you can simply show up on a morning you would like to help. They start at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to Friday and are done before noon. For more information, see their website at https://prairiegleaners.com.
SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News