By Roxanne Sanders, GleanSLO Program Manager
San Luis Obispo County is a region of vast abundance, yet only a portion of the population has consistent access to a wide-range of fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. In San Luis Obispo County, over 800 million pounds of produce are grown annually. About 7% of these planted crops go unharvested, which translates to more than 58 million pounds of fruits and vegetables that are left in fields every year. GleanSLO is a program of the Food Bank Coalition which rescues produce that would otherwise go to waste from farms, orchards and backyards.
How It Works
Gleaning is the collection of leftover crops both large and small, from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or from fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. GleanSLO has expanded this definition to include the collection of surplus produce from backyards and gardens of community residents.
- Many commercial growers and private homeowners have fruit trees, or entire orchards and fields that produce more fresh fruit or vegetables than they can harvest. We invite them to register their crops online. Donations are tax deductible. (Some California growers may be eligible for a 10% tax credit.)
- GleanSLO staff organize harvests and volunteers to gather the fresh produce. Volunteers sign up online, checking off a liability waiver that protects crop owners.
- The produce collected is distributed by the Food Bank Coalition to our neighbors in need through its network of non-profit agency partners and direct food programs like Children’s Farmers Markets and Emergency Food Assistance Program. Each year nearly half of the food distributed by the Food Bank Coalition is fresh produce, including over 200,000 pounds harvested locally by GleanSLO.
- Healthy food for all. We live in an area of agricultural abundance, yet there are many people in SLO County that go hungry. We believe in simple solutions such as harvesting extra produce and getting it to our neighbors in need.
- Reduce waste. Growing food requires resources such as water, land, labor, and energy. By gleaning we more fully utilize our region’s resources.
- Gleaning grows communities. We create opportunities for a diverse array of people to collaborate and celebrate the act of harvesting and sharing nutritious food. By working together and sharing ideas we discover our broader sense of connectedness and common purpose.
- Knowledge empowers. We believe that through collaborations and sharing ideas we can inspire a healthier food culture.
Through the act of harvesting and sharing food, we connect and nourish our community to build stronger relationships and a deeper appreciation for our food.