Yes, the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners now have bananas.
It’s a first in its 15-year history for the local organization that accepts donated food marked for waste and turns them into millions of dried soup mix meals to feed the hungry in other countries around the world.
The bananas, which will be turned into hydrated banana chips, arrived at the Gleaners’ Lavington plant off Whitevale Road Monday, Jan. 17, before 8 a.m. along with 80,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, scores of bags full of carrots and a mixture of onions and bell peppers courtesy of Sun Fresh Farms in Edmonton.
“In the winter, we usually receive lots of root vegetables like parsnips and beets from the Lower Mainland, and a lot of potatoes, but due to the flooding we’ve lost all of our supply from the Lower Mainland,” said Gleaners’ spokesperson Brad Egerton as the semi-truck full of the Edmonton produce was being unloaded.
“The farmers had nothing to donate. Last Monday (Jan. 10), we used the last of the potatoes and our cupboards were absolutely bare.”
Through East West Express, a trucking firm out of Calgary, word got out to farmers in Alberta about the Gleaners. Sun Fresh Farms has come through with a pair of donations made through East West Express.
Created in 2007, the Gleaners society is a group of volunteer individuals who became aware of the problem of world hunger, and the fact the Okanagan is rich in food supplies.
Volunteers help with the cleaning, chopping, and preparation of the produce for dehydration, as well as packaging the final product. Once per year stock is taken and a soup mix recipe is created from the ingredients on hand.
The mix is packaged in 120-serving sealed bags, then packed into boxes ready for shipping. Apples are also dehydrated, packaged and shipped as nutritious snacks, and now, the same will happen with the donated bananas.
There are pallets full of dried soup mix at the Lavington plant earmarked for the Ukraine. The organization recently sent a shipment to the Dominican Republic.
A second gleaning operation at the Lavington plant is collecting donated used medical equipment. The Gleaners receive donations of surplus and replaced medical care equipment which is requested by well-known and reputable mission organizations who arrange for pickup and shipment through the Gleaners to locations around the globe where the equipment is desperately needed.
“We’ve had 300 beds donated and we’re going to be able to store them at Restoration Lands (Coldstream),” said Egerton, also pointing out the Gleaners have two, 40-foot seacans full of fabric earmarked for the Congo and Pakistan.
“The fabric is great but we’d also like to start collecting sewing machines,” said Egerton. “We need 40 machines which can be donated, along with furniture if people are so inclined, at our store (4405 29th Street).”
If you would like to donate a sewing machine or furniture, call the Gleaners’ store at 250-549-1123.
Volunteers for the organization are always needed, particularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For volunteer information, call the plant Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., at 250-558-5872.