While we entered the church that serves as the Julian Pantry at eight in the morning, a long line had already formed at its door. We entered through the back and found a beautiful sight. Light streamed through the towering windows from above, shining down onto the great circle of fresh produce and goods being laid out by volunteers.
The church had been cleared, and in place of the benches were tables covered in food. There was more than just produce; one table contained a stack of cereal boxes, another was covered in salad dressing. Our sacks of fruit suddenly seemed much smaller.
There were many volunteers other than ourselves, and before the distribution began we organized ourselves in a large circle, the students between the volunteers so that everyone was next to a new friend.
I stood between two older Latino women, one of which whispered “esto es hermoso,” to the woman on my other side. The coordinator began to speak, explaining the plan and assigning positions. Each volunteer would work a stand, distributing its fruit evenly to everyone.
The circle broke and the non-volunteers had a few moments before the crowed came in to claim some produce for themselves. They filled their bags with happy enthusiasm, and clearly overjoyed with their efforts and compensation.
We took our places when they were done and the doors to the church were opened.
A massive line had assembled outside and it slowly began to file in.
It moved much faster than we had suspected and the tables began to empty quickly, especially with the help of one very enthusiastic, yet quite small, celery distributor.
Yet even with the speed of the distribution, almost everything lasted until the very last person in line, with only our rosemary and celery remaining after everyone had left, which were taken by some volunteers in the end.
All of the fruits of our gleaning had been claimed, along with the heaps the Julian Pantry had provided themselves.