The Gleaning Network
One major area of food waste in America is in farmers’ fields, where crops that don’t meet top-grade quality are left to rot or be plowed under. Gleaning is the traditional biblical practice of gathering crops that would otherwise be left in the fields to rot, or be plowed under after harvest. The Gleaning Network coordinates volunteers, growers, and distribution agencies to salvage this food for the needy.
Tens of thousands of volunteers from churches, synagogues, scout troops, senior citizen groups, and other organizations participate each year in Society of St. Andrew gleaning activities. Each year, tens of millions of pounds of produce are salvaged and given to the poor at no cost to them or to the food pantry or kitchen that feeds them.
Gleaners are people of all ages and income levels who want to give of themselves. Usually within 48 hours of picking the produce, hungry Americans receive the gleaned food. Each year, 35,000-40,000 people glean with us – to pick up over 20 million pounds of fresh, nutritious food for their hungry neighbors.
Why It Works
The Gleaning Network is an extremely successful and cost effective program because it is volunteer-driven and biblically-based.
The biblical mandate comes from the Hebrew scriptures in Deuteronomy 24:19: When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all your undertakings. (NRSV)
Farmers donate food, volunteers work, donors provide funds for transportation, and feeding agencies distribute the food.
By relying on these people, and coordinating their efforts, we are able to keep our costs to just 2.4 cents per serving of gleaned food.