Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Food waste and gleaning

After Monday evening's showing of "Just Eat It," there was some conversation about why we are not doing more gleaning in St. Lawrence County.  The term gleaning refers to harvesting the surplus that might be left in the fields after a farmer has completed his harvest.  This is usually done by volunteers and the produce is given to local food pantries or community meal programs.  (See an article about a successful gleaning program in the capital region here.)

Asked why GardenShare doesn't set up an online platform to allow farmers to list crops that could be harvested and volunteers to sign up to do it, I had to agree that part sounded easy and simple.

But, while setting up that online platform would be easy, establishing a full-scale gleaning program would not.  Here are just some of the challenges to address:

  • Who will provide the boxes or other containers to put the produce in?
  • Who will transport the produce to the food pantry or community meal program?
  • Will the pantry or meal program even be open when the volunteers are working?  Will they have refrigerator space to store the produce?
  • Who will supervise the volunteers at the farm and make sure they only pick in the right areas, park in the right areas, etc.?
  • What happens when a volunteer does something s/he was not supposed to at a farm and the farmer is unhappy?

I'm sure more challenges or questions would come up.  And I also know that successful gleaning programs can be operated.  Capital Roots is doing it in the Albany area.  And Foodshare, where I was the CEO for thirty years, is doing it in the Hartford, Connecticut area.

At Foodshare, we had funds for supplies, refrigerated trucks to move the food around, and staff and experienced volunteers to supervise the whole process.  GardenShare currently has none of these things!

However, if there are volunteers and farmers who would like to explore setting up a farm gleaning program in St. Lawrence County, I would surely be happy to help you do that!  Get in toucch!