The Chester County Commissioners recognized retired Senator Andrew Dinniman this week, for his leadership in addressing hunger in the county, and establishing the Chester County Gleaning Program, a forerunner to the Chester County Food Bank’s Farming and Garden Education Programs.
Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline officially dedicated the garden area at the County’s Springton Manor Farm as the Senator Andrew Dinniman Garden. Senator Dinniman retired from public office at the end of 2020 after nearly 30 years as an elected official, serving as a Chester County Commissioner and then as State Senator.
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, Chair Marian Moskowitz said, “When Senator Dinniman announced his plans to retire, we began to think of a way that we could honor his many years of public service, and especially his efforts to address hunger in Chester County.
“The successful Gleaning Program that Andy developed 25 years ago, with a network of volunteers, quickly established a resource for locally grown fruit and vegetables that was distributed to county agencies. The fruits of his labors, along with those of local farmers, community groups and individuals, quite literally continue to this day through gardens like those at Springton Manor Farm, managed by the Chester County Food Bank.”
The Chester County Gleaning Program began in 1996, when then County Commissioner Dinniman called a meeting of concerned citizens to address the hunger issue in Chester County. At that meeting, it was suggested that farm surplus, an untapped source of fresh, nourishing food, was a viable solution to the hunger problem.
“I believe that the problem of hunger, in a place like Chester County, is solvable, and the Gleaning Program was designed to be part of that solution,” said Senator Dinniman. “I am deeply honored by the Commissioners, naming the Garden in recognition of my public service.”
The first two years of the Chester County Gleaning Program – 1996 and 1997 – yielded around 24 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables, and soon after, a formal structure of the program was established. By the year 2000, more than 500 volunteers gleaned and delivered more than 32 tons of fresh produce.
“At the end of each Gleaning event, I said that when we are blessed with an abundant harvest, it is our obligation to share the harvest with all,” added Dinniman.
Last year, the Chester County Food bank distributed more than one million pounds of fresh food throughout Chester County to a network of more than 160 hunger relief partners.
Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said, “Andy Dinniman was on my School Board when I was a Downingtown student, was my professor at West Chester University, was my Senator when I was Downingtown's mayor and he’s someone who has inspired me to always stay true to who I am and what I believe. Chester County residents have long reaped the benefits of his vigorous approach to public policy that includes multiple points of view and leaves no one behind. There are a lot of people who run for office to fit in, to me Andy stood out. He’s been my mentor since I met him. I’ll spend the rest of my career trying to turn that A- he gave me into an A+.”
Through its partnership with Chester County government, the Chester County Food Bank is able to grow fresh produce at Springton Manor Farm on one acre of fenced-in field space, in an 80-foot tunnel, and produce a variety of crops in the 32-raised bed Demonstration Garden. Seedlings are also started in Springton Manor Farm’s greenhouse. The field and gardens are fully maintained by the Food Bank for many visitors to enjoy, with the mission to educate and inspire.
In one year at Springton Manor Farm, the Chester County Food Bank averages 325 volunteers, contributing over 1,800 volunteer hours. Last year, nearly 18,000 pounds of produce came from Springton Manor Farm’s field, and nearly 1,500 pounds came from the Demonstration Garden.
“The concept of Senator Dinniman’s Gleaning Program was very simple, yet effective,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “It is why the Chester County Food Bank continued the model when it was established in 2009, and why it has grown to include some year-round operations like the one at Springton Manor.”
“The Chester County Food Bank has nurtured the Gleaning Program into deep rooted initiatives in agriculture, nutrition and education,” said Bob McNeil founding and current Chair of the Chester County Food Bank. “Every day the Food Bank staff works to move our community beyond hunger. Andy has been instrumental in supporting local agriculture and preserving our beautiful Chester County resources for all. The Chester County Food Bank is honored to be a part of his legacy.”
At the event honoring Senator Dinniman, the Commissioners unveiled a sign that reads:
This garden is dedicated to Senator Andrew E. Dinniman for 28 years of public service to the citizens of Chester County. During his years as a public servant, Andy created and developed Chester County’s Gleaning Program, growing food for those in need. Chester County Food Bank’s successful Farming & Garden Education Programs owe their roots to the Gleaning Program established by Senator Dinniman in 1996.