Q: What in the world is “gleaning”?
A: An excellent way for 4-H youth to make a difference in their communities!
The Problem: According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, in 2010 food loss and waste at the retail and consumer levels was 31 percent of the food supply, equaling 133 billion pounds and almost $162 billion. That is a lot of potatoes! So how does so much waste happen when so many people need healthy food? Sometimes waste starts at the farm.
The Solution: After a farmer harvests vegetables from a field, there is much of the crop left behind. Maybe commercial harvest machines miss part of the crop. And sometimes the produce is considered below market grade. It might be smaller or larger than what a supermarket would consider “shelf-worthy”. But this food is just as nutritious as the commercial crop itself! “Gleaning” is a way for others to gather the leftover crop so that it is not simply plowed back into the soil. This is where the “4-H Glean Teams” can come in! As part of a club’s plan to offer community service, opportunities abound for 4-Hers to glean local fields.
4-H Leans In: In Martin County, local clubs coordinate with the House of Hope food pantry to comb fields after their harvest. Now that the growing season is in full swing in south Florida, 4-Hers and other groups may pick beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn, green peppers, potatoes, avocados, or even mangoes! All the food collected is distributed to client choice pantries and other food bank participants. According to one gleaning participant with Cros Ministries, “Gleaning may be tiring and tough, but it truly helps people within the community”. Instead of wasting crops, the local food system is improved and youth are able to make a difference.