Have you ever wondered what happens to those crops that don’t look pretty enough to sell? What about where food banks get their fresh produce from? That’s where gleaning–the act of collecting extra crops and food from farmers, restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers markets, to provide for those in need–comes in.
What’s going on?
Because of the large amount of collaboration and coordination between volunteers, gardeners, farmers, and anti-hunger organizations, gleaning helps foster strong local community food systems. Gleaning is the act of collecting extra crops and food from farmers, restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers markets, to provide for those in need.
Why it matters.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 to 40% of the nation’s food supply goes to waste, with farms alone accounting for around 21% of all food waste in the United States. Additionally, around 10.5% of all households in the United States are food insecure, meaning these households are unable to acquire enough food to meet the needs of all household members due to lack of resources or income. To bolster food security and decrease food waste around the country, many communities and anti-hunger organizations have turned to gleaning.
By developing strong local food systems through gleaning programs, food insecure households have reliable access to fresh, nutritious foods. Gleaning programs are also relatively inexpensive because they are mostly run by volunteers and make farmers’ fields more economically profitable. Additionally, gleaning is a very sustainable method of reducing food waste, as gleaners collect food that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
What you can do.
- Ask your local food bank about gleaning near you. If one is not close enough, they may know a local food pantry you can volunteer at.
- Visit the Nationwide Map of Gleaning & Food Recovery Organizations from the National Gleaning Project
- Contact your local representatives to provide incentives such as tax credits to businesses and organizations that contribute to gleaning programs
Information from Feeding America, the US Department of Agriculture, Almanac, NPR, National Gleaning Project, and Urban Sustainability Directors Network.