VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) -- Kim Hack knows there's plenty of fresh food in the ground and dangling from trees. More than enough to feed local families who may be short of cash these days.

It's just a matter of asking farmers for permission to go after surplus crops they can't sell, and arranging for volunteer gleaners to harvest it in return for a small share.

Hack is a 23-year-old volunteer at AmeriCorps's Volunteers in Service to America. She's the gleaning coordinator for Urban Abundance and the Clark County Food Bank.

"It's not fighting hunger," said Hack, who's taking a break from environmental science classes at Portland State University. "It's creating abundance. This is food that otherwise would go to waste."

On two weekends in December, a handful of gleaners went to work at Purple Rain Vineyard, a certified organic farm in Hockinson. They collected 491.5 pounds of root vegetables such as rutabaga, parsnips, leeks, shallots and onions, Hack said.

Purple Rain is the first farm Hack has worked with. It's a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, meaning that it sells subscriptions to members prior to the growing season for deliveries of colorful seasonal produce.

"By sharing the food we grow, our partnership with the land and our philosophy, we then celebrate with you, your family and friends the connection of seasonal foods and the earth," owners Luisa DePaiva and James Voisin said.

Such fresh foods are a far cry from the canned foods that many drives collect, although both are very important. The virtues of canned foods are they are non-perishable, can contain meat for protein and don't really require cooking.

And few people would argue against the nutritional value and flavor of fresh, seasonal, organic vegetables and fruits.

This winter, Hack said, her job will be contacting more growers, restaurant associations, neighborhood associations, volunteers and others to get more people involved in gleaning projects, including those involving fruit and nut trees.

Fresh food on a much larger scale is being grown at Heritage Farm, the former county poor farm, said Bill Coleman, secretary-treasurer of the board of the Clark County Food Bank.

For the past three years, thousands and thousands of pounds of carrots and mixed vegetables have been grown there.

In addition, the food bank recently received 40,000 pounds each of potatoes and onions. Some is in the food bank's large coolers and some is being distributed quickly.

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Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com

Copyright 2011 The AP.

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