Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gleaning - one way to prevent food waste

Gleaning is the name given to the idea of bringing in volunteers to harvest crops that a farmer is unable to and donating that food to soup kitchens and food pantries.

In my time at GardenShare, I've had a few conversations with people about how we should be gleaning from local farms.  And while I don't necessarily disagree, I also know from my work at a food bank for many years, that it's not quite as simple as it sounds.

These activities always tend to be last minute and there are lots of questions to answer.  Who will recruit the volunteers?  Who will supervise them to make sure they pick in the right fields and don't do any damage?  Where will boxes or other packaging come from?  Are the local programs even open to accept the donation and who will deliver it?

This week, I've had an example of just how hard this is.

A local grower estimated that he has 150 quarts of blueberries that he could donate, but he needs volunteers to pick them.  In this case, he had solved one of the logistical problems by making arrangements to freeze the blueberries in the new commercial kitchen at Cooperative Extension.  We thought if we could ask volunteers to bring a box of quart freezer bags with them, we could make this work.

Of course, time is of the essence.  Every day that goes by means a loss of quantity and quality of the berries.

I have reached out to several community groups and so far no takers.  I suspect, at this point, that a large amount of these berries will go to waste.  And I hate that.

Are there any volunteers out there who would like to work on developing a gleaning program?  If so, I'd love to talk to you.