Fresh produce is an important part of the food we share with families. Food banks are working to distribute less canned and boxed foods high in fats and sodium and instead, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (the Food Bank) is able to do this in large part thanks to our gleaning program.
Gleaning is a form of food rescue which allows farmers to invite Food Bank staff and volunteers to pick produce out of their fields. This produce is gathered after the farm has completed their harvest in the field that would otherwise go to waste. Gleaning allows items like fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, kale and peppers to make it to the plates of our neighbors.
The gleaning season often lasts from mid-June into November depending on the weather. In 2019, our volunteers helped us complete 26 gleans and harvested nearly 70,000 pounds of produce! Our 16-foot refrigerated truck can hold eight bulk bins of produce, which typically equals thousands of pounds of fresh fruits or vegetables.
This season, gleaning has looked a bit different. Out of an abundance of caution during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Bank’s sourcing team has asked our partner farms to harvest extra produce for us if they are able. Farms are reimbursed for labor and packaging costs with the help of a Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) grant. Many gleaning volunteers are retired and part of the high-risk population for COVID-19, and this new system helps us keep everyone safe.
We are grateful that we can continue to work with our farm partners to rescue high value produce and provide families in need with nutritionally rich food, even if how we go about it looks different this year. Over the past three years, we have worked with about a dozen farms through our gleaning program including:
- Apple Castle
- Dave Jones Farm
- Dillner Family Farms, LLC
- Greenawalt Farm
- Harvest Valley Farms
- Lisowski Farm
- Shenot Farm
- Soergel Orchards
- Trax Farms
- Triple B Farms
- Villa Maria Farm
- Wexford Farms
The fresh, local produce season is winding down which means gleaning will be too. We are looking forward to next year and hope to see more of our volunteers back in the field!