Published: August 8, 2020

Category: COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter

The gathering of harvest leftovers, once a protected right of the poor, is being resurrected in COVID-19 times. The pandemic has generated huge amounts of food waste, produce targeted for food service clients that farmers cannot sell. Hunger is rising with unemployment, while farms are hurting from lost markets.

From New Jersey to Florida to California, non-profit gleaning groups are sprouting up to stabilize the precarious food supply. “We have to find the food that is already here …and get it into the hands of the people who need it,” said Virginia Baker, coordinator for Farmers Against Hunger (NJ). Her group recruits volunteers (many eager to do safe outdoor service work), finds growers willing to donate surplus, and delivers the harvest to a redistribution center. Her gleaners recently bagged 500 pounds of spinach in two hours for local food pantries.

GleanSLO of San Luis Obispo, CA, picked backyard fruit trees and thousands of blueberries that would otherwise have gone to waste. After the Harvest in Kansas City, MO reaped fancy greens including arugula and pristine lettuces grown for restaurants. The Iskashitaa Refugee Network in Tucson, AZ coordinates gleaning crews with African, Asian, and Middle Eastern refugees who pick and deliver to refugee communities, hunger organizations, and a quarantined Navajo Nation community.

The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program pays selected farmers to donate to hunger relief programs—and they need gleaners. The ability to work on short notice to catch ripened greens and fruit, and deliver them to smaller venues like local libraries or pantries, highlights the increasing value of gleaning groups.

“What gleaners do really well is work within the spaces missed by more traditional food recovery and hunger programs,” said Shawn Peterson, founder of the Association of Gleaning Organizations.

Source: New York Times

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