Curbing Food Waste by Gleaning

amanda-2-photoshopToday’s blog comes from our Hotline Manager, Amanda, who came across this incredible environmental resource called “Gleaners”. When she first presented the idea of gleaning, much of our staff thought it was a play on words to promote green cleaning solutions, we were wrong. Read on to learn more about this eco-friendly trend!

In California, we’re blessed to have ample fruit trees and great sunny weather to grow fresh food, but did you know that a lot of it goes to waste because it isn’t harvested? Perhaps you have a fruit tree at home and have more lemons or oranges than you know what to do with?  Don’t worry! We have a solution, and it’s gleaners.

glean def

There are a lot of things we glean: information, resources, and in this case, fresh food. Gleaning, performed by gleaners, is the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state/county fairs, etc. to provide it to those in need.

Why should we Glean?

According to the USDA, an estimated 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income neighborhoods that are known “food deserts,” where affordable, quality, and nutritious foods are inaccessible. And yet hundreds of thousands of pounds of edible produce is landfilled each year!

Local gleaners help collect fresh fruits and vegetables at no-cost! The collected food then goes to local food banks to feed those in need.

Gleaning helps to close the gap, connecting local residents with an abundance of home-grown produce, to people who need it most. This process occurs all around the United States. In San Diego, gleaning has taken a more unique, urban form with a focus on volunteers gleaning excess fruit from residential properties and farms to be donated local food banks.

If you’re in need of help to glean fruit or vegetables from your property, search “gleaners” at www.WasteFreeSD.orgLocal gleaning programs, including Cropswap Carlsbad, and Senior Gleaners of SD County, listed in our recycling database, can both pick up excess produce, as well as offer volunteer opportunities for those looking to donate their time.

Food waste is a serious problem in the US, prompting the EPA to get involved in reducing food waste. They have created a food recovery hierarchy,which helps to promote the best ways to reduce food waste and put excess food to the best use. The diagram below shows that the first priority is reducing the volume of food produced with the second being feeding hungry people with any excess food; gleaners do precisely that. 

The average american throws away roughly 20 lbs. of food each month while 23 million Americans lack access to nutritious food.

For more information about reducing food waste, please check out the blog Five Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste, written by our environmental educator, Emily. Also, if you see a need in your neighborhood and want to take action or want to learn more about gleaning check out the USDA’s toolkit to help.

As always, be sure to visit our one-stop recycling resource,, to find recycling and environmental resources near you! 

4 responses to “Curbing Food Waste by Gleaning

Comments are closed.