The State of Food Waste: Gleaning, and Other Ways to Help

After interviewing Jack Paxton for my last article, I had the same thought I know many others have had: “Wow. Maybe I should start thinking more about what I throw away. But how?” I went looking for solutions, maybe to tag them onto the end of the article, but felt like they merited their own piece, and so I turned this into a series, which I’ll probably post a few more articles in over the coming months.

First off, let’s talk about food waste specifically. You don’t have to be a farmer or grocer to help redistribute surplus food. Gleaning – which the USDA identifies as “the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, or any other source in order to provide it to those in need” can be done by anyone. This handbook (don’t be scared; it’s only 8 pages) is a great way to start. The EPA also has its own answer, the EPA Food Recovery Challenge, which has a variety of useful tools for citizens and farmers. Food Shift is a grassroots movement that seems to be gaining traction, and anyone can pledge to reduce waste and/or get involved on their website.

Other sites like Ripe Near Me allow gardeners to share or sell their bounty (like those all those excess zucchinis) with others in their area. And of course, inedible scraps and rotten food (if it comes to that) can always be composted, and you probably know (or are!) a gardener who could use them.  Ask around.

As this is a blog about agriculture and mostly food crops, I won’t devote much time here to used clothing and other non-perishables. But for those in the Champaign area who are interested, I do highly suggest checking out this page.

For farmers, small business owners, and others in the supply chain who find themselves with surpluses, the previous tools should help you, but you should also check out this app, called Food Cowboy. It allows producers and distributers to redirect food surpluses to food banks and soup kitchens by giving them a direct line of communication.

There is a lot of waste out there, as I mentioned last week. I admit that I find it pretty daunting, but it is good to know that there are people all across the US (and around the world too, as shown in a French supermarket’s recent commercial) working to get food to people. We’ve already proven we can grow food well. So why not move it better?