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Volunteers fanned across Texas farm fields to pick up sweet potatoes missed by mechanical harvesters, joining a national network to feed the poor with produce that might otherwise go to waste, from California oranges to Indiana beans and Florida squash.

In this rural community about 75 miles east of Dallas, the weekend effort is called the Texas Yam Jam.

The work is overseen by the Big Island, Va.,-based Society of St. Andrew, an ecumenical organization with strong United Methodist ties. The ministry, in its 25th year, is named for the disciple who figured in the New Testament story of how Jesus fed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes.

The society estimates that over the past quarter-century, 250,000 volunteers have gleaned 461.5 million pounds of food that would have been dumped, plowed under or left to rot -- but instead became 1.4 billion servings of food donated to the hungry.

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