Gleaning — an ancient practice that goes back to Biblical times — is not scavenging (to search for things that others have discarded), nor is it foraging (gathering foodstuffs from the wild). It is, in essence, gathering food that has been overlooked. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines gleaning as “the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state or county fairs or any other sources in order to provide it to those in need.”
The U.S. has a huge problem with food waste. Part of the problem is that consumers waste the food they have already purchased. An National Resources Defense Council report from August 2012 describes the problem on a broader scale: “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This means that Americans are throwing out uneaten food (that) ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions.
“Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food.”
The founders of Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) were astounded by the amount of fruit growing in Alameda that was not being harvested. ABG members decided to start collecting this fruit while building a community that would join volunteers with neighbors in a shared mission to help feed the hungry in Alameda.
This effort was named Project Pick, and since 2011 it has delivered more than 13 tons of gleaned fruit to the Alameda Food Bank. This program has been incredibly meaningful to donors and volunteers alike. As one fruit donor put it: “I have found Project Pick to be such a treasure for the community! Instead of mourning wasted fruit, I have watched it go to a wonderful cause, to help other people. The volunteers are always friendly, kind and respectful, and it is a pleasure to have them visit.”
ABG encourages volunteers to join Project Pick and help connect the community, stop food waste and feed the hungry. Volunteer Connery Obeng, a young mother who recently moved to Alameda said: “Volunteering in this way is so satisfying. The effort is enjoyable — being outside in the midst of citrus trees. And the results are tangible and important — getting fresh produce into the hands of people who need it.”
To volunteer with Project Pick, email firstname.lastname@example.org.