Leftover pumpkins gleaned to help battle hunger

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- Hundreds of volunteers converged Sunday on a popular pumpkin patch in Liberty, Mo. They volunteered their time to clear the fields of squash and pumpkins -- and to feed Kansas City's hungry.

The Society for Saint Andrew spearheaded the event, aptly named Squash Hunger 2013.

"It has been a bountiful year" said Gieselle Fest. "We have good farmers, good land conservationists. They study the seed and the nutrients that go into it."

After two months of customers picking the perfect Halloween pumpkin, the fields that surround Carolyn's Country Cousins Patch are still ripe with produce.

"It's like the grand canyon of squashes," Fest said.

So hundreds of volunteers collected the leftovers.

"We are going after 400,000 pounds because that is how many homes we found for them," Karin Page with the Society of St. Andrew said.

And what's collected is scheduled to be delivered to food banks and agencies from Nebraska to Texas.

The Raasch family own the fields, but they humbly keep to the sidelines.

"They do it in a quiet, private way," Fest said. "They have a generous heart and you do find them in the shadows, but always there. When anybody in the community is in need, they are there."

When the Raasch family invited the Society of St. Andrews to pick the leftovers, Sosa rounded up every available volunteer and they called every agency they know that feeds the hungry.

"Whoever wants pumpkins and squash, let us know and we will deliver them for you," Fest said.

The Society of St. Andrews believes if produce left behind in every field and orchard in America was gleaned, there wouldn't be a hunger problem.

After gleaning the produce, the challenge of teaching people how to cook it remains.

"Pumpkin is the original fast food recipe," Page said. "You can make soup, salad or a great squash potato salad."

For more information or to volunteer, visit endhunger.org.

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