Have you ever been gleaning?

GleaningWorld Overshoot Day (the date by which humans have used up our annual share of the world’s resources) was 1st August this year! We are currently using the equivalent of 1.7 planet’s worth of resources. It is therefore horrendous that a third of all food is wasted and 10% of rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions comes from growing food that is never eaten.1 Jesus asked his disciples to gather up the left-overs after feeding the 5000, so it seems that he does not like food waste either (John 6:12).

Autumn is coming – and Kentish orchards are hanging with a rich harvest of apples and pears. However our modern food system leads to large amounts of fruit (and vegetables) being left to rot – not harvested because they are too big, too small, or too knobbly for our fussy food system and our demands for ‘perfect’ food. Yet, people are short of food, even in this country, as the need for Food Banks shows. And the production of wasted food also uses resources and contributes to climate change.

Here are three things we can do to reduce this waste:

First, don’t worry about the shape and size of fruit and vegetables – that is not what makes them good and tasty. Look out for odd sizes and shapes when you are buying fruit and veg at farm shops, farmers markets, market stalls and supermarkets – and you may well be able to get some bargains too!

Second, organise shopping to reduce waste and make use our own leftovers. There is a tool on this website which suggests recipes for whatever item is left over.

Third, explore the ‘Gleaning Network This campaign is part of a wider group ‘Feedback’ that campaigns against food waste, and it organises ‘gleaning days’. Gleaning is a practice that was followed in Israel in the Old Testament, and later in mediaeval times in this country: after a field has been harvested others can go through it to pick up any of the crop that has been left behind. In these ancient societies it was a kind of social security for the poor and landless.

The Gleaning Network has adopted this practice. Farmers (who hate seeing their crops going to waste) invite teams to go through and pick up unwanted fruit and veg when the harvest is finished, and the produce is then given to charities (e.g. FareShare UK) who distribute it to people who need it – for example those who are homeless or for various reasons short of food, or to the organisations feeding them.

During a record-breaking glean last November 50 volunteers saved around 25 tonnes of unsold squashes and pumpkins from being ploughed back in! They were carefully loaded on to pallets to be sent to FareShare UK’s distribution centres all over the country – as it was such a productive glean – and from there to many groups feeding people in need. It was a very satisfying day, fellow volunteers were of all ages and from an amazing variety of backgrounds. Some were regular gleaners, others were also on their first day, but all said they’d be back to help again. It is fine to go along on your own, many do, or make a fun day of it with a group of friends. Volunteers are allowed to take some of the produce home for themselves too and some bring a bit back to the next glean to share. Someone at the pumpkin day had red current jam to share from the last glean they’d been on. During the pumpkin day a couple of volunteers made a large vat of fresh pumpkin soup on a camping stove in the field for all the volunteers to enjoy during a break!

Sign up on the website for emails about gleaning days in Kent. They have a Facebook page too.

FareShare Kent redistributes surplus food, including that gleaned, to charities and community organisations working with disadvantaged people across the region. You can contact them on fskent@fareshare.org.uk to find out what help they need with sorting, packing, delivering etc. They also have a Facebook page

1 http://feedbackglobal.org/about-us/

Adapted from an article by Wye Church Eco-congregation Working Group

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