What is gleaning? Picture Jean-François Millet’s poignant painting of three gleaners, backs stooped, gathering crop left in the field after the farmer had completed harvest.
Gleaners from throughout the state will gather at the State Capitol in Salem, Tuesday, March 12, to celebrate their rich history of 40 years of gleaning in Oregon.
Gleaners will also ask state legislators to pass Senate Bill 430 to allow farmers and others to claim a tax deduction for food they donate to gleaners and other hunger-relief groups.
Gleaning started in Oregon in 1972 when Monica Belcher, a Washington County woman, saw unharvested fruits and vegetables going to waste in farmers’ fields. Belcher developed gleaning guides, and taught people how to harvest leftover crops and how to prepare and preserve fruits and vegetables.
Today, gleaners gather food and firewood not only from fields and orchards but also from grocery stores and commercial food operations – wherever food is processed and sold.
“Low-income people become gleaners to supplement an inadequate diet, to earn their own food through their own work, to feel useful, to contribute to their community and to build esteem,” said Sharon Thornberry, community food systems manager for Oregon Food Bank.
More than 10,000 people belong to more than two dozen gleaning organizations throughout Oregon.
Gleaners – low-income (200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, $3,900 a month for a family of four), able-bodied volunteers – organize themselves into gleaning groups. They share the food they gather with group members, including “adoptees,” low-income people who are unable to gather food for themselves because they are elderly or disabled. Gleaners also share with food banks and group meal sites.
Gleaning doesn’t depend on a bureaucratic organization to maintain itself, she emphasized.
Some groups charge a small membership fee. Others don’t. “The effort has continued for 40 years because people themselves keep it going,” said Thornberry.
Most of the groups, which are member agencies of Oregon Food Bank, are in the Willamette Valley, but you’ll also find gleaners in eastern Oregon and along the coast.
Gleaning groups include: Alsea Valley Gleaners, Alsea; Canyon Gleaners, Mill City; Central Valley Harvesters, Halsey; Coastal Harvest Gleaners, Bandon; Columbia River Harvesters, Boardman; Cottage Grove Gleaners, Cottage Grove; Faith Harvest Helpers, Redmond; Fair Share Unlimited, Sweet Home; Fern Ridge Connection Gleaners, Veneta; Four Rivers Gleaners, Ontario; Golden Harvesters, Portland; Harrisburg Harvesters, Harrisburg; Helping Hands Gleaners, Albany; Lebanon Gleaners, Lebanon; Mary’s River Gleaners, Corvallis; Mid Lane Gleaners, Cottage Grove; Mid-Valley Gleaners, Albany; North Santiam Gleaners, Scio; Philomath Community Gleaners, Philomath; South Benton County Gleaners, Monroe; Sweet Home Gleaners, Sweet Home; Tualatin Valley Gleaners, Beaverton; West Valley Gleaners, Sheridan; and Windy River Gleaners, The Dalles.
Learn more about gleaning's 40-year history in Oregon.
Read the Public News Service story.
About Oregon Food Bank
Oregon Food Bank believes no one should be hungry. With sufficient public will and support of the entire community, we believe it is possible to eliminate hunger and its root causes.
Oregon Food Bank collects and distributes food through a network of four OFB branches and 16 independent regional food banks serving Oregon and southwest Washington.
The OFB Network helps nearly 1 in 5 households fend off hunger. OFB also leads statewide efforts to increase resources for hungry families and to eliminate the root cause of hunger through advocacy, nutrition education, garden education, and helping communities strengthen local food systems.
For more information, visit www.oregonfoodbank.org.
Contact: Jean Kempe-Ware
OFB public relations
503-419-4170 (o), 503-572-7588 (c)
OFB community food systems manager
800-777-7427 (w), 503-703-2198 (c)