What Would You Do If You Knew Your Neighbors were Going Hungry?

The Gleaners – Jean Francois Millet (1857)

Throwing away food is like stealing from the table

of those who are poor and hungry.

~Pope Francis


Every day food companies in the USA throw away over 5,000 tons of nutrient rich, fresh produce.

According to a 2016 Guardian report  roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away at an annual cost of $160 billion- approximately one third of all food goes wasted!

More than enough to feed every hungry child in America.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture  reports food wastes are actually going up, not down.

There is locally grown, nutrient dense, healthy food going is squandered..

ReFED estimates that 10.1 million tons of edible produce remains on U.S. farms each year—

and less than five percent of this loss is currently being recovered.


Seeing Solutions

Dave Laskarzewski, Co-Organizer at UpRoot Colorado , is one of many superheroes who believe there is a better way.

He explained the reality of the situation, in terms even I could understand:

Suppose you are a farmer contracted to grow 5000 pounds of kale for Kroger. You aren’t going to plant only 5000 pounds of kale….perhaps you will plant 6000 pounds, taking into account what may be lost to insects, wilting and “cosmetic” issues .  (Evidently Americans need their food to be “pretty”.)

Once you have fulfilled the contracted 5000 pounds, there may be another 750 pounds of edible kale available but you aren’t going to pay to have it picked, not when there is no one buying it.

It’s cheaper to plow it under where it will compost and add nutrients back to the soil.

Horrifying, right?


Gleaners to the Rescue

Gleaning is an Old Testament term from when the Bible commanded farmers to leave the corners of their fields unharvested in order that the poor, the destitute, widows and orphans would have something available to them.

Acting as liaisons, Dave and his UpRoot co-founders , Ciara Low and Maggie Brown, coordinate a bevy of  at the ready volunteers to pick thousands of pounds of local produce, in a day or two, after a farm has been harvested. Timing is essential in order to optimize freshness and prevent rot.

Transportation must be found to hunger relief agencies who, again will need to distribute the food quickly.

LOTS of moving pieces.

Like I said….Gleaners are SUPERHEROES.


A Moral Issue


The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 4 percent of planted vegetable and fruit fields are left unharvested annually.

Four percent of how many acres nationwide?

Filled to overflowing with food that could feed the hungry?  Yep.

Through good ole fashioned collaboration,  where farmers donate the food (yes, it’s tax deductible!!), volunteers provide free labor, feeding agencies distribute the food with the use of donor sponsored transportation,  gleaning organizations are able to provide fresh food for less than 5 cents per serving.

Locally grown, fresh, nutrient-dense surplus is deposited directly into the hunger relief system, resulting in less reliance on processed foods at a much cheaper cost!


Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money,

helping to feed the world

and protect the planet.

~Tristram Stuart


If this leaves you feeling hopeful and you’re hungry to learn more:

~Listen to:

The Gleaning Radio Show with Ali Berlow and Viki Merrick.  I never knew there was so much to learn about FOOD, from reducing waste to great recipes.


-Jonathan Bloom’s Blog  Wasted Food

-If you enjoy the blog, then order Jonathan’s book: American Wasteland: How America throws away nearly half its food (and what we can do about it),

-A summer gleaning intern’s blog: Boston Area Gleaners


Wasted: the Story of Food Waste, chronicled by American chef, Anthony Bourdain

The Global Food Waste Scandal, Tristram Stuart’s 2012 London Ted talk

The Gleaners and I,a film by acclaimed French filmmaker Agnes Varda, documents various types of gleaners – in fields, cities, and junkyards – as they recover food and other found objects. Named one of the BBC’s 100 greatest films of the 21st Century, this documentary offers a unique window into the ancient practice of gleaning and how it manifests in all aspects of life.


Falling Fruit maps public places worldwide to go out and pick your own produce that might have otherwise gone to waste.

Ample Harvest  helps 42 million home and community gardeners end food waste and hunger by educating and enabling them to donate their excess garden produce to one of 8,247 nearby food pantries across America.

Philadelphia Orchard Project:  Orchards are planted in formerly vacant lots, community gardens, schoolyards, and other spaces, almost exclusively in low-wealth neighborhoods where people lack access to fresh fruit.


When you are ready to take action:

Find Gleaning and food recovery organizations in your state .

Nothing nearby? Start your own!  Let’s Glean! is a PDF United We Serve toolkit offered online by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  Details how to start a gleaning program, including finding  local farmers, volunteers and funding.

Get the kids involved:  teach kids about food waste with Food Waste Warrior Kit


We , the people, do have the power to stop the tragic waste of resources

if we regard it as socially unacceptable to waste food.

~Tristram Stuart


Here’s the Good News: Hunger is solvable.

The food is already planted and grown.

Now the question becomes: Will we ensure that it gets to the people who need it?


With Hope and Healing for Us All,