At the beginning of hot day in July in California, 40 children, ranging in ages from 2 to 12, braved the heat, dirt and weeds to participate in gleaning vegetables to help the Second Harvest Food Bank. The children and their parents were supporting a planned service activity for the children from the Foothill Ranch Ward, Santa Margarita California Stake, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern California.
The Irvine Incredible Edible Park is planted, maintained and gleaned by approximately 6,000 volunteers, mostly children, each year and provides approximately 500,000 pounds of food or 2 million meals for families in need.
The children arrived at the field on a day when the high was expected to reach 93 degrees. Sam Caruthers, of Second Harvest Food Bank, showed the kids the correct size for the bell peppers, yellow squash and zucchini ready for picking. Caruthers consistently praised the children’s efforts.
Sometimes weeds made finding the vegetables difficult. Caruthers encouraged the children to pull as many weeds as they could, joking that they couldn’t go home until everyone had pulled at least 20.
Kyle Myers said of the experience afterward, “It was easy. All you did was pick it, put it in the bucket and carry it to the truck.”
Although many children disliked the heat, there was a smile on practically every face. Kimball Leung said, “It was good. I want to come back and pick watermelons.”
Kathy Tanner, the ward Primary president, said she chose a gleaning activity over a pool party. “It gave the kids a chance to get their hands dirty, to make a difference and see that difference. They could see the truck and bins that they had filled with food and hear Mr. Caruthers tell them they had provided 10,000 meals; 10,000 people will be able to eat because of what we did.”
The 2,500 pounds of food collected will be distributed to families in need.
Karen Lake lives in Southern California and has served as the media director for the Santa Margarita Stake for more than six years. She has published more than 500 articles, and when she isn't writing she is performing or teaching voice lessons.