What is gleaning?

Gleaning is the act of recovering excess food from farms, gardens, grocery stores, or other sources for the purpose of donating the food to those who may not otherwise have access. Donating this excess food lessens the rate of food insecurity as well as reduces the amount of food wasted. Gleaning is an ancient practice that still exists today, with many organizations around the world recovering food in order to donate it to those in need.

Food insecurity refers to the lack of consistent access to enough food to live a healthy active life, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. In 2016, it was estimated that 12.3 percent of households in the United States were food insecure at some point during the year. Locally, the Great Plains Food Bank estimates that one in nine people in North Dakota struggles with hunger. Gleaning combats food insecurity by obtaining fresh, healthy foods to distribute at charitable feeding organizations such as food banks and pantries.

Gleaning also alleviates the issue of food waste, by providing a place for unwanted food. Worldwide, approximately one-third of the world's food is wasted annually. This waste occurs at every step of the food production chain, from growing to consumption. Gleaning efforts can especially have an impact on the amount of fruits and vegetables wasted, as they face the highest rate of loss with approximately 45 percent wasted annually.

The following resources provide more information on gleaning and food waste.

The National Gleaning Project

United States Department of Agriculture

Environmental Protection Agency, Sustainable Management of Food

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations