Society of St. Andrew - Feeding Hungry Neighbors

The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) brings people together to harvest and share healthy food, reduce food waste, and build caring communities by offering nourishing food to hungry neighbors. SoSA gleans excess and unmarketable produce in farm fields and then donates that produce to organizations that feed hungry people.

The SoSA Tennessee regional office, which was established in 2010, coordinates the statewide Tennessee Gleaning Network, handles the placement and distribution of large loads with the Potato and Produce Project, and advocates on behalf of numerous hunger relief programs. SoSA Tennessee is led by Regional Director Jeannie Hunter and Program Coordinator Kelsey Miller. They currently work with 117 hunger relief agencies statewide and have rescued and distributed 1,027,715 pounds in 2021 thus far. “Hunger is a big problem in Tennessee, and so is food waste,” says Hunter. “We get to address two problems at once by preventing food from going to waste and using it to feed hungry people instead.”

They work with farmers across the state to harvest food from fields after the marketable produce has been sold. Produce that is left in the field is often still edible, but maybe not the right size, shape, or quality to be sold in stores. Farmers who choose to work with SoSA and have their fields gleaned are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, and are also eligible to receive federal tax deductions for the donated food. “Farmers work hard to grow good food that people will eat,” says Hunter. “One farmer told me, ‘The worst is when we can’t sell it. Second worst? Seeing it go in the trash.’ We get to help make sure the food goes to people.”

This year, SoSA TN partnered with TDEC to launch the Row by Row project, to calculate the value of what’s left in the fields (Post Harvest Yield Potential). SoSA staff and volunteers will glean excess produce from Tennessee farms, collect the data in the field, and then share the data back with the farmer. Through this research project, SoSA hopes to gain further support for the agriculture community. “Further reducing waste ensures we are doing everything we can to see that all agricultural inputs—soil, seed, acreage, water, nutrients, and labor—meet their best use; feeding people and keeping families on the farms,” says Hunter.

Of course, all of this work could not be possible without volunteers. In 2020, SoSA worked with 1,580 volunteers to glean produce from fields across the state. These volunteers help to ensure that thousands of pounds of nutritious food get to those who need it. You can sign up to volunteer individually or with a group on their website.

So why do Jeannie and Kelsey do what they do? A passion and heart for others. As Kelsey puts it, “It just makes sense.” I love this work because it’s completely practical. There is food left in fields that would otherwise go to waste and instead, we get to spend a morning in the field gleaning it and sharing it with folks who are in need.”

Last Updated: Sep 15, 2021 - 11:25:06