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WESTTOWN — Not many — if any at all — of the fifth grade students who visited Pete’s Produce in Westtown had ever tinkered around in a garden quite like this before.
“Sadly, this is the last year,” said Kelly Richardson, a mother of a student and part of the Community Outreach Committee, which helped organize the event. “The Chester County Food Bank has changed the way they get their food and their volunteer gigs.”
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Fifth graders had the option to sign-up to participate in the picking, which is called Harvest for Humanity, and it’s something many of them are excited for.
“It’s like a rite of passage at our school,” Richardson said. “Every fifth grader knows and it’s an opportunity they look forward to doing. We have 25 percent of the fifth-grade population here who signed up to come today. That’s a fantastic turnout.”
Three years ago, Pete’s Produce donated a portion of its farmland to the Chester County Food Bank for the nonprofit to grow whatever crops they pleased and harvest it all to go back to the food bank for those in need in the community.
The East Goshen students did a double-duty of help in just one shot for the food bank by harvesting collard greens this year and picking them completely out of the ground — roots and all.
“There will be a truck that will come by today to collect all that (they pick),” Richardson said. “Then Pete’s Produce and the Chester County Food Bank will get the fields ready for the next plantings which will happen.”
After the students finishing with the picking, the field will be turned over in time to plant spinach.
This year was about an even mix of boys and girls, though sometimes throughout the years it has leaned to one side or another.
In fact, the girls team this year organized themselves into a well-functioning picking machine, out-picking the boys by a good amount and in shorter time.
The event is spearheaded by the parent-run committee at the school, which also runs many other volunteer events throughout the year.
“This initiative is part of our Community Outreach Committee at East Goshen Elementary,” Richardson said. “We do a Feed the Hungry event, a coin drive event and we end the year with a can drive.”
Between Pete’s Produce and the East Goshen students with the Chester County Food Bank, it has been a wonderful relationship that will be missed.
“The food banks don’t usually get fresh things,” Richardson said. “It’s all usually canned. The one year we collected 400 pounds of cherry tomatoes and (the Food Bank) turned them into sauce and they canned them and other stuff we take for granted.
“When you rely on Food Bank food, it’s not usual that you get fresh things like that. It’s better for the diet. It’s a great event.”