September 9, 2008

According to wikipedia, gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.  I have read about different gleaning programs and think they are a great idea.

Mississippi State University agrees and recently, their freshman volunteer group, Service Dawgs participated in a gleaning event harvesting watermelons that went to area food pantries.  There are gleaning events all over and as summer comes to a close, more and more farms are letting their leftover produce be harvested by individuals or volunteer groups.

Gleaning can apply to more than fresh food out in a field.  It can come from grocery stores, wholesalers, retail outlets, or even restaurants.  Food that is gathered to be used and saved from the waste stream can come under the heading of gleaned food.   The Slow Food movement has a great article giving more information on all the places it can be gathered, and how to go about getting it.

I think on a personal level, thinking about gleaning makes me think of my own food waste, and how can I reduce it. I already try to make the most of my leftovers, I freeze portions to eat later, and I buy small amounts appropriate to cooking for one person. But I think the best step I do is that I compost what I cannot eat, what spoils before I can eat it, or what is inedible (rinds, pits, seeds).  All my vegetable and fruit scraps are composted to be eventually reused as food for new plants.  What little meat waste I have, I share with my dog.  (No, not the chicken bones, those do go into the garbage.)

I like that more and more people are looking at the abundance of food in this country and are working to make sure everyone gets a share of the bounty.  I think our grandparents and great-grandparents would be proud of this move back to thrift, to making use of every little bit.  I’m happy to make that move and glad to be part of the change.

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