A group of devoted individuals, known as gleaners, sort or “glean” produce from surrounding farms to disperse among local organizations.
For seven years volunteers annually have gleaned thousands of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables that otherwise wouldn’t end up on someone’s plate.
Gleaners take from the portions of crops deemed unsuitable for sale because of some defect in appearance and “would otherwise go to our animals,” Patty McManus-Huber, promotions coordinator for Nash’s Organic Produce, said. “But we grew it intending for people to eat it.”
However because of the time and costs associated with both gleaning and distributing crop leftovers, McManus-Huber said, they can’t afford do themselves.
“They (gleaners) connect the food to the families that need it,” she said.
Although the gleaned produce that goes to the food banks in Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks, the Salvation Army, Sunrise Senior Home, various churches and the Peninsula Behavioral Health Center, are needed and appreciated year-round, the holidays tend to be a heightened time of need.
Mark Ozias, Sequim Food Bank director, said he was “delighted” to receive a bin of organic carrots from Nash’s Organic Produce just before Thanksgiving.
“They were gone in no time,” Ozias said.
The Sequim Food Bank served over 2,100 different families at least once in 2014 and about 650 different families each month.
Despite dating back to biblical times, locally, organized gleaning started in 2008 following the leadership of AmeriCorps and OlyCAP staff who ran the program for a year. Once the program came to a close, a group of volunteers continued to glean primarily at Nash’s Organic Produce.
In 2013, the county received a Washington Department of Ecology grant to coordinate gleaning as part of a waste reduction program and additional farms, including Blueberry Haven, Johnston Farms and River Run Farm, became involved.
“I love farming and gardening, so this was a natural thing for me to do,” Lee Bowen, a local gleaner, said.
Bowen was quick to get involved with the AmeriCorps and OlyCAP programs and now acts as the organizer for the local gleaning group.
Every Monday the group gathers and gleans for about two hours. Afterwards they distribute their day’s work to the various organizations throughout the county.
“We’ve collected, on average, about 5,000 pounds of produce each year,” Bowen said. “It’s good to see it go to people in need.”
For more information on gleaning or to get involved, contact Meggan Uecker, waste reduction coordinator at WSU Extension of Clallam County, at 417-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.