JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) Friar Focus:
By Friar Brad Heckathorne, OFM Conv., Guardian of St. Anthony of Padua Friary, Durham, NC and Associate Director of the Duke Catholic Center,
the official Catholic community on the campus of Duke University.
Distributive Justice is an operative phrase at the Duke Catholic Center where an essential part of our Gospel life is responding to the food desert situation in Durham. Gleaning is the way we try to ensure that our neighbors, whose food needs go unmet, receive a just distribution of goods.
The Society of St. Andrew leads the way by organizing gleaning groups, such as ours at Duke. We enter farmers’ fields for the purpose of harvesting produce, which has been left behind to eventually rot. This produce is quickly gathered and is then distributed to local agencies, which feed the local poor and homeless, as well as directly to people’s homes in disadvantaged parts of the city. We are glad to be a part of an organization that salvages over 5,000,000 pounds of fresh produce each year in North Carolina alone.
Working in the fields helping to glean sweet potatoes, collard greens, strawberries and grapes also gives us a snapshot of what it is like to be close to the earth, and provides me with a window into the work of field laborers. Although our experience in the fields is far different, our hearts and prayers turn to those for whom such work is a way of life and at times do not earn a just wage for their labor.
Once a year in the fall, Duke University partners with the Society to have what is called a “Potato Drop” at the university. A day is chosen and 40,000 pounds of potatoes are delivered. Various campus organizations gather volunteers to sort through the potatoes, pick out the good ones and bag them for just distribution throughout Durham. The potatoes not chosen are then used for compost.
Gleaning is generally a popular choice of social service for students and families because it is one of those activities that does not require a weekly commitment and usually lasts for a portion of the day. We are given a couple days notice and then off we go to gather that which has been sown.
If the Gospel is calling you, or people from your ministry, to work for distributive food justice, consider the Society of St. Andrew. They offer a Gleaning Guide & Handbook to begin gleaning in areas where they are not yet active.