4:39 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015
The retired preacher looks at a secluded mango grove and sees more than fruit ripening on branches. Keith Cutshall sees promise and possibility.
On Saturday morning, he and a group of volunteers packed boxes of freshly gleaned mangoes beneath the fruit-laden branches of some 300 trees in Lantana, working with a sense of purpose.
That purpose: to feed the hungry of Palm Beach County.
Volunteers, including Mary Chesley (center) of West Palm Beach, glean mangoes in Lantana on Saturday. “We’ve taken 29,800 pounds from this grove from mid-May to now,” said CROS Ministries’ Gleaning Program Director Keith Cutshall. “There are a lot of hungry people in Palm Beach County.” (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
A mango, you see, is more than a sweet, fragrant fruit — it’s a nutritious treat that boosts local food pantry shelves.
As the gleaning project director for CROS Ministries, a Lake Worth-based agency that works to end hunger in the county, Cutshall organizes more than 100 produce-gathering efforts a year in Palm Beach, Martin and Hendry counties. The picked produce is then transported by the Palm Beach County Food Bank to area food pantries and community kitchens.
The latest gleaning took place Saturday in the shade of a mature mango grove that grows on the western edge of the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority’s central transfer station. The grove, he noted, predates the SWA’s presence on the property and serves as a noise buffer between the station and the bordering neighborhood of spacious homes.
Wrapped in the smell of overripe fallen mangoes, it also helps bolster some 100 local food pantries and hot meal kitchens in the county, Cutshall notes.
Some 25,321 children receive food from CROS Ministries each year, according to the agency’s website.
“It’s this simple: About 55 million pounds of produce are plowed under each year. It would take 32 million pounds to feed all of the county. We can end hunger in Palm Beach County,”said Cutshall, a retired United Methodist Church preacher.
He notes there are more than 200,000 county residents classified as “food-insecure.” Translation: Hungry.
Earlier in the week, after a strong storm in the area, Cutshall and a volunteer gleaned 1,001 pounds of mangoes from the grove. On Saturday, he was joined by a small army of volunteers.
Among them was Joan Pierce, a volunteer who works as a hospital consultant.
“This is food that would otherwise go to waste,” she said as she maneuvered a long, fruit-picking pole between mango-heavy branches.
Working alongside Pierce, retired nurse Carol Adelman praised the tangible nature of CROS’ gleaning efforts.
“I love the physical aspect of this, how our work will see direct results,” she said.
“I enjoy doing this as much as they (the hungry) enjoy getting the mangoes.”
The mango gleaning closes out CROS’ produce-gathering efforts for the year, as gleaning efforts resume in November. Last year, Cutshall and some 3,000 CROS’ volunteers gathered 482,898 pounds of produce from farms and fields as far west as Clewiston.
The season starts in Clewiston with the gleaning of sweet corn. It progresses to potatoes, green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and other produce.