BEND, Ore. - Gleaning is the practice of gathering food after farmers have harvested their fields. This good Samaritan practice is making a comeback in Central Oregon while providing fresh local food for the hungry.
During the first week of September, the Central Oregon Food Policy Council will partner with local farmers and backyard gardeners to encourage them to donate excess produce to emergency food centers.
This effort is entirely dependent on volunteers forging the connections between the grower and the food bank/pantries to distribute and use local food.
Gleaning can be traced back to the Old Testament, where farmers were told not to pick their fields and vineyards clean but instead to leave the edges for orphans, widows and travelers.
Nowadays, gleaning is more about preventing waste.
The statistics are striking. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the United States never touches a plate; instead it is left to perish in the fields. By reducing food loss by 15 percent, 25 million hungry Americans could be fed every year.
The COFPC is spearheading this effort in our community through their Green Thumbs Up Gleaning Project.
To meet a rapidly growing need for fresh food at emergency food locations, old practices need to be resurrected.
"Our hope is that in the next few years local non-profits that feed the hungry will see a significant increase in fresh local food and that anyone interested in donating food can find a pantry in their neighborhood, establishing valuable connections that will broaden relationships for all," says Jane Sabin-Davis, COFPC Board Member.
In Central Oregon. there are plenty of excess potatoes, squash, pumpkins and other food available in community gardens and farms during the fall. In fact, Sabin-Davis hands out excess food this time of year as the corn and zucchinis overflow in her neighborhood garden.
In addition to the weeklong event, Sept. 1-8, Beth Neumann, the newest board member, will be expanding gleaning efforts to include schools, restaurants, and event centers in the coming year.
"I was watching food get scooped up and thrown away at my daughter's school when a family kitchen is right across the street," says Neumann. "I realized this is one of those times I needed to do something."
Interested gardeners, farmers, and willing volunteers, as well as local pantries and kitchens can find information about the project on the Central Oregon Food Policy Council website. You can also find a list of regional food pantries and donation locations at: www.centraloregonfoodpolicy.org.
The gleaning project is a part of the COFPC's Eat Local! Week. You can participate by picking up a Dine Fresh, Buy Local discount card and support businesses that provide local food. The card is available on the COFPC website and at participating restaurants and retailers.