COVID and cold weather present challenges for After the Harvest

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Posted at 5:17 AM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 06:52:23-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The rise in new COVID-19 cases and a decrease in temperatures creates two challenges for Kansas City, Missouri, based nonprofit After the Harvest.

The organization collects excess produce then supplies food banks with fresh fruits and vegetables to pass out to those in need.

Zach Callaway, the organization’s gleaning network manager, said the recent increase in positive COVID-19 tests in the Kansas City area forced the agency to cut back on how many volunteers it uses.

“We really want to minimize the amount of contact points for our volunteers because they run the spectrum of ages and backgrounds and we want to make sure, any of them who might be more vulnerable, we’re doing our best to keep them safe,” Callaway explained.

As a result, After the Harvest did not plan to send a volunteer to the last two sessions of the Overland Park, Kansas, farmers market to collect excess and donated products from vendors.

David Hemme, a dairy farmer who sells cheese at the market, stepped up to the plate. He said he beat COVID-19 about a month ago and, therefore, is not fearful of collecting produce and dropping it off where it needs to go.

This past Saturday, the patriarch of Hemme Brothers Creamery collected squash, lettuce, eggs and other perishable foods from his fellow farmers market vendors. He then delivered the food to Shawnee Community Services, which will package and distribute it to its clients.

“Society, in general, needs to look around, bury the hatchet, and give somebody a hand up,” Hemme said.

Callaway said relationships between farmers and After the Harvest make the entire program possible.

“They were able to step up and really help complete this mission,” he said. “It’s great to have that partnership.”

To keep the mission going when the weather gets cold After the Harvest pays for farmers in warmer regions to deliver fresh produce to Kansas City, as it’s too cold for local farmers to grow during the winter.

After the Harvest requires donations to make those deliveries possible. It is launching a “Bucks for Trucks” fundraising campaign on Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Callaway said the organization relies on hundreds of thousands of delivered products to keep the food banks stocked from November to March.

“It really helps to supplement when locally we don’t have as much going on with our local agricultural scene," Callaway said.

The nonprofit posted information about how to donate on its website and Facebook page.