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Gleaning For The Hungry

Gleaning For The Hungry

As I wrote about last month, as gardeners are preparing for their spring gardens, they might want to think about planting an extra row of produce to help those in need.

But for those people who do not garden or do not live in a climate that allows year-round gardening, there are alternative ways to help bring fresh produce to the hungry. And, the need has never been higher, with a recent story in the New York Times indicating that, “nearly one in five Americans said they lacked the money to buy the food they needed at some point in the last year.”

One way to help is to volunteer with organizations that donate fresh produce by gleaning excess or unwanted produce. Traditionally, gleaning is collecting “leftover” crops from farmers’ fields after they have already been harvested. After harvest, there is an abundance of high quality, marketable produce left in the fields that cannot be harvested economically or does not meet commercial standards.

As the need has increased, so has the number of nationwide groups conducting organized fruit harvests, or fruit gleanings in large cities.

Aside from these gleaning groups in urban areas, there are also quite a few groups and organizations located in more traditional, rural agricultural areas organized by both farmers’ organizations and other nonprofits all across the country.

While it is still the dead of winter, hunger knows no season. Wherever there is food growing, there is a need for gleaners, although the need varies by region, climate, and crop production. The number of large gleaning projects might go down during this time of year in some areas, but will pick up once the spring comes.

However, even during this very cold weather season, some groups are still conducting regular organized picks. One of these is South Carolina’s Fields to Families. They have been gleaning during the recent frosts and torrential storms in their area, and have even blogged about it. In 2009, Fields to Families distributed 80,390 pounds (65,000 meals) of fresh produce to those in need.

Another cold climate group is the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network based in Virginia. This nonprofit organization gleans in the National Capital region, and, annually provides over three million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to hungry people in their area.

On the West Coast, Harvest Against Hunger based in Seattle, Washington uses volunteers to glean vegetables, tree fruit and other produce from both local farms and gardens. The organization is affiliated with Rotary First Harvest and conducts monthly work parties in different parts of the state.

One of the oldest gleaning groups around is California based Ag Against Hunger. This nonprofit organization was created by local farmers, the farm bureau and the local food bank. It provides fresh donated produce to food banks in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties as well as the rest of California and the West Coast. Since 1990, area growers and shippers have donated over 160 million pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to help feed the hungry. In 2009, it’s volunteers harvested over 143,000 pounds of produce that would have otherwise been disked underground.

Read more: Community, Community Service, Conscious Consumer, Food, Life, Nature, Outdoor Activities, , , , , ,

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Judi Gerber

Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.


+ add your own
6:31PM PST on Jan 25, 2014

Thank You.

4:20PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

It is fantastic to read about such wonderful organization. I believe this world wide hardship did and is creating more and more generous helpful people. So many times people say the world gets worst and worst. Yes, there are many people that only think of themselves and try to cheat and do wrong thing just to get money for themselves, but I believe in good of humanity and we see more and more wonderful and generous people helping those less fortunate.

9:30AM PDT on Aug 17, 2010


2:13AM PDT on Jun 29, 2010


9:17AM PDT on May 19, 2010

Amazing people!

9:31PM PDT on Mar 16, 2010

thanks for the post

9:30PM PDT on Mar 16, 2010

like the idea

3:20PM PDT on Mar 14, 2010

Thank you for sharing this article. I have bookmarked it and shared it with others.
It is an inspiring article. I was glad to read about the generosity of these organizations that are caring for the needs of the hungry in America. And as I had been thinking about writing blogs on the matter to create a discussion on the topic, I now am reading this article.

10:44AM PDT on Mar 14, 2010


6:38PM PST on Mar 11, 2010

These "gleaning" groups are a great idea - does anyone know of any in Canada?

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