Food Campaigns group Feedback have launched the Gleaning Handbook, a resource to help communities rescue food surplus from farms and redirect it to those in need by setting up their own gleaning hub.
What is the Gleaning Network?
Every year, around 3.6 million tonnes of food goes to waste on farms. To deal with this farm-level food waste, Feedback has been running the Gleaning Network UK since 2012. The project gives volunteers all over the country an opportunity to engage hands-on with the food system by visiting farms to help harvest fresh fruits and vegetables which otherwise be wasted; ensuring this food is redirected to organisations helping those in need. So far, over 2,000 volunteers have helped save 520 tonnes of fresh produce from going to waste.
They began their gleaning journey in a few key regions of the UK, led by Feedback’s own gleaning coordinators. This past year, thanks to WRAP funding, they were able to expand and open-source its gleaning know-how by creating a resource to allow individuals and community groups to gain the knowledge to start gleaning in their local area. They hope that the launch of an online toolkit will inspire others to help keep local fresh food from going to waste.
How does it work?
Some farmers frequently have surplus produce at the end of a harvest or the season for reasons beyond their control. If they are supplying to supermarkets, they are often left no choice but to overplant to ensure they fulfill their contractual obligations, which are often subject to strict size and shape requirements; in seasons with favourable weather this may result in significant amounts of surplus food on the farm. On a smaller scale, ’pick-your-own’ farms may have leftover crops before they close at the end of the season.
Gleaning requires a group of keen volunteers, one or more local food recipient charity/organisation and a farmer who has unsellable surplus crops. It’s a brilliant way to prevent food waste whilst also connecting community members to each other and to where their food comes from. It’s also an activity that, once the connections are established, can be long lasting and largely self-sustaining.
Feedback’s Gleaning Network website let’s you find out where gleaning is happening, and the online toolkit includes all the information you need to start gleaning in your local region. If you are interested in the gleaning network, find out more by visiting: bit.ly/37PNZW4