Spring is finally upon us, which means the growing season is in full swing for farmers, gardeners, and The Food Group. We are so excited to be growing produce on our own TFG micro-farm, rescuing produce from the Minneapolis Farmers Market, and gleaning produce from local farms and orchards.
What is gleaning?
Gleaning is the act of collecting extra produce from farms, orchards, and gardens that would otherwise go to waste. This produce is high-quality and ready to eat, but for one reason or another was not harvested. Farmers often experience time constraints, budget constraints, storage capacity issues, and other barriers that prevent them from harvesting all of their crops. The crops are left to rot in the fields, and farmers lose out on the income those crops could have produced. By collecting these excess crops, gleaning creates an additional market for farmers, reduces food waste, and provides more fresh produce to community members experiencing hunger.
Why Do We Glean?
In the United States, a staggering 40% of food is wasted. Whether it’s bread that becomes moldy before it’s eaten, the unwanted “ugly” apples at grocery stores, or too much food on our plates after our eyes were bigger than our stomach, the amount of food waste in this country is huge. But each individual has the ability, through choices and actions, to reduce waste and increase food access for those experiencing hunger. Gleaning is a great way to gather food for our communities while reducing food waste in the process, increasing accessibility to fresh and nutritious produce for all!
For farmers, gleaning provides a market for produce nearing the end of their peak freshness when there otherwise may not be one. When there is leftover produce on farm fields, whether it’s due to time constraints, full storage capacity, or any number of other reasons, gleaning provides one last market opportunity before this farm-fresh produce becomes inedible waste.
Where Does the Produce Go After It’s Gleaned?
In partnership with lots of volunteers, The Food Group gleans fresh produce from local farms, orchards, and markets throughout the growing season. A portion of this gleaned produce is delivered directly to our food shelf partners and the families they serve. The rest of the produce is processed into nutritious meal items in partnership with Open Arms of Minnesota. This project is made possible through a three-year USDA grant which aims to increase access to healthy foods in our community.
Once these fresh fruits and vegetables are processed into items such as soups, purees, chopped frozen veggies, and roasted medleys, The Food Group makes these items available for purchase through Fare for All – our low-cost grocery sales program. Fare for All helps families stretch their budgets and purchase healthy meats and fresh fruits and vegetables for a great discount. These gleaned items are a healthy addition to Fare for All and help more families access farm-fresh produce.
We live in Minnesota. As such, it can often be difficult to incorporate vegetables into our diets through the winter months. Keeping this in mind, many of these healthy meal items can be frozen for extended use. Since the launch of this project, we have processed gleaned produce into applesauce, stuffed bell peppers, cubed butternut squash, zucchini bread, and more. Find them at the New Hope Fare For All location every other Monday!
Interested in getting involved?
Our gleaning volunteers make our on-farm gleanings possible. As a volunteer, you will visit local small farms with The Food Group’s Produce Programs team. Together, our many hands will harvest and pack up a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for our communities.
Visit our Volunteerhub site to sign up!
If you are a farmer who may have excess produce later this summer, we are able to compensate you in exchange for gleaning. We care about food safety, and will incorporate your farm safety plan into our brief volunteer training at the beginning of our glean. If interested in hosting a glean, contact Ari Baum-Hommes for details: [email protected]
This post was written by Anika Hager, MN Green Corp Member with The Food Group. Questions? Contact Anika.