In honor of National Food Day, Anna Tredway of Charles Ellis Montessori Academy has allowed us to post her findings on Gleaning:
Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested and giving it to those in need. It is shown to be a cost-effective way for those who need food it acquire it for themselves in a sustainable manner. This practice has been used since biblical times where it was law of the Holiness Code and the Deuteronomic Code of the Torah for farmers to leave the edges of their fields unharvested and to not pick up the crops off the ground. The leftovers were left for the widows, strangers, poor, and the orphans. Although, gleaning has become greatly overlooked in modern times.
“Some of the foods we receive [from gleaning] are things that would otherwise be too expensive to buy…One of the great benefits of working with farmers markets is getting fresh fruits and veggies that are healthy.” said a Staff Member at the DC Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization in Washington, DC. Gleaning has proved to be a wonderful, cost-effective way for those in need to acquire food by themselves throughout history. Not only that, but it also helps reduce the large amounts of imperfect agricultural products that go to waste each year. It’s estimated that 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply is left uneaten and thrown away, that equals about 161.6 billion dollars’ worth of food loss, each year in the United States. Additionally, it takes a billion dollars a year just to dispose of all the uneaten food. Gleaning helps feed the 48 million people or 15.4 percent of the American people that do not have food to eat.
In previous years gleaning was only available on small rural farms, although now with the increase of farmers markets and the need to feed the hungry, gleaning is becoming more popular. Today each year in the United States 35,000-40,000 volunteers from The Society of St. Andrew help glean the fields and tens of millions of pounds of produce are harvested and given to the poor at no cost to them, the food pantry, or kitchen that feeds them. In just the state of Georgia, St. Andrew’s has delivered over 11 million pounds of potatoes and other salvaged foods to the hungry. Further, 23.9 percent of all farmers markets across the country are already involved in gleaning, trying to help their community become a better place.