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Let's Glean!

by Merici Vinton

A key component of the United We Serve:Let's Read. Let's Move initiative is using service to increase access to healthy and affordable food for youth. This summer, farmers, gardeners, market managers, and volunteers can expand their impact by connecting with United We Serve and utilizing the Let's Glean! Toolkit (PDF).

What is Gleaning? Gleaning is the act of collecting excess fresh food from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state/county fairs or other source and donating it to those in need.

5 Reasons to Glean:

1) Each year, well over 100 billion pounds of food are thrown away in this country. Up to 1/5 of America’s entire food supply goes to waste.

2) Currently there are 49 million Americans, including more than 16 million children, who are hungry or at risk of going hungry.

3) 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income urban and rural areas that are considered “food deserts,” where access to affordable, quality, and nutritious foods is greatly limited.

4) The majority of non-profits who serve food to those in need have been seriously strained by the economic downturn.

5) Consumers often do not have a relationship with the producers who grow their food and vice versa.

Gleaning can simultaneously address these pressing problems by connecting the efforts of producers, volunteers and service providers to make fresh foods accessible to communities in need and to strengthen local community food systems.

Gleaning and Farmers Markets: With the growth of farmers markets across the country – there are now an estimated 6,000 nationwide – more Americans can get involved and develop relationships with local producers by gleaning at markets, benefiting producers and consumers alike. Individuals who would like to start a gleaning program at a nearby market can view a map of markets across the country by visiting USDA’s National Farmers Market Search Engine. Potential donors at markets should be aware of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which protects food donors from liability in the rare case of food-borne illness. Serve.gov can help markets find volunteers to start or expand a gleaning program, and help with other activities as well (equipping markets to accept EBT/SNAP benefits, performing nutrition outreach, etc.).

Check out the Let's Glean! Toolkit and start gleaning today!

Click here to read more Healthy Foods stories.

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