Harvest of Hope to hold dinner, auction

MARIETTA — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in a recent report estimated that one-third of all food produced in the world is either lost because of damage in the supply chain or wasted by being discarded by markets or consumers, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons a year. Meanwhile, millions of people go hungry or at best don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Washington County Harvest of Hope, established in 2005, is doing its part on a local scale to remedy that disconnect. Last year, the organization marked its one millionth pound of food diverted to meet the needs of hungry people in the county. On July 26, the agency will hold its fifth annual Farm to Table fundraising dinner.

Susan Allender is executive director for the agency.

“We rescue an average of around 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of food a month and distribute it to more than 30 agencies,” she said. “Many of the sites are meal sites that might be the primary sources of food for the people they serve. We go to food pantries, many of them on the outskirts of the county that don’t get a lot of funding. They especially need meat, that extra source of protein.”

The Harvest group manages fresh produce and meats rather than boxed and canned goods, obtaining it from a variety of markets, restaurants, producers and farmers. Markets sometimes over-order produce or meat, and sometimes good fresh food remains unsold because it doesn’t meet ordinary standards of attractiveness but is otherwise safe, sound and nutritious.

Allender said contributors include dozens of businesses, such as Broughton Foods and Kroger.

Jennifer Farnsworth oversees the Newport Community Food Pantry serving the rural northeastern end of the county.

“We always get a monthly donation from them, they run on a schedule,” she said. “The outreach they do is fantastic. Our area falls into the category of a food desert. When the IGA in Newport closed, we lost an outlet for people to get a lot of that fresh food, but since we started working with Harvest of Hope three years ago, we’ve been able to offer fresh produce every month, different things each month from corn and apples to oranges and potatoes.”

Farnsworth said many of the Newport clients struggle to even get to the pantry.

“Some of my clients can only go to town (Marietta) once a month, they’re so far out and can only go when they have the gas. When we get that fresh food, we call people and they come in, we get it right to them,” she said. “Being able to reach people and get them that produce, Harvest of Hope is our guardian angel, they pick up the slack when we’re not able to purchase or the fresh food is not readily available. It’s really working well for our community.”

Allender said Harvest of Hope also supports two community gardens, one near Harmar Elementary School and the other on Hart Street.

“They’re for people who want to grow their own vegetables but for one reason or another don’t have the space,” she said. “Except for two spaces, they are completely full.”

Although the organization gets grants and contributions from several sources, Allender said, the Farm to Table dinner is Harvest of Hope’s biggest fundraising effort of the year, offering fresh local produce and meat prepared by local experts.

“We do have a fabulous menu,” Allender said., with Weber’s Meat Market providing prime rib and chefs from the River Town Grill and Belair’s Bistro in Belpre doing main courses and community meal cooks preparing dessert. Menu contributors also include Parkhurst Catering at Marietta College, Nick Pugliese, Terri Paige of Valley Catering, Uncle Dan’s Homemade Ice Cream, Dorothy Peppel and local farmers and volunteers.

“We partner with chefs and local farmers from around the area. It’s always interesting to see what the chefs prepare,” she said.

It’s the fifth year for the dinner, she said, and it attracts more than 200 people. Doors open at the Shrine Club in Marietta at 5:30 p.m. for a social hour, followed by dining, an auction and live music by The Rhodes Family.

Tickets are $30 in advance from Peoples News in Marietta and Parkersburg, $35 at the door, if any remain, or $225 for a reserved table for eight.

“We have sold out before, so get tickets early,” she said.

Information is available by calling 740-538-8811 or at wchoh.org.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.