What is Gleaning?

Gleaning is rescuing fresh food from farms that would otherwise be unharvested or wasted. Produce is gathered in the fields or picked up after the harvest and is quickly distributed to food-insecure individuals and families in the region.

Gleaning is happening all across the country, and it is now an active program in the greater St. Louis area!

Benefits

  1. Reduce food loss.
  2. Increase access to healthy, fresh, local food for food-insecure individuals and families.
  3. Strengthen connections between local farmers and their community (the gleaning volunteers) and increase knowledge of and appreciation for farming work.
  4. Receive tax benefit from donated food.
  5. Spread awareness of the generosity of farming businesses on social media.

How to Participate if You’re a Farmer:

  • Contact Rae Miller, rmiller@moenviron.org, local food coordinator at Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE), to set up a gleaning event on your farm. Rae will work alongside Operation Food Search (OFS) to recruit a group of volunteers (around 10-15 people) for the day.
  • We need one- or two-weeks’ notice to schedule a gleaning event (two weeks is preferred).
  • Your farm needs to be within about an hour’s drive of St. Louis.
  • Typically, gleanings are set up in the morning from 8-11 a.m. and can take place any day, Monday-Friday.

What Farmers Can Expect:


  • Farmers are welcome to interact with and show the gleaning volunteers where and how to harvest, or if you prefer, the gleaning crew leaders can do so.
  • We will bring our own harvesting boxes and bags and our own gardening gloves.
  • During COVID-19, our volunteer crew will also be wearing masks while on your farm and will have access to hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment.
  • We request that the farm allow volunteers to use your restroom. We will be sure to maintain proper COVID-19 procedures.
  • We may also need access to harvesting equipment depending on the crop, such as buckets and a scale.
  • We will record the weight of all gleaned vegetables, and OFS will report that back to the farm for use in your tax records.
  • OFS will transport the gleaned food from your farm to one or more of the 200+ community food partner agencies that participate in OFS’s network (such as food pantries and shelters).
  • If you have a farm store, volunteers will likely be interested in making purchases.
  • We will photograph the event and share it on social media.

How to Participate if You’re Not a Farmer:

    • Sign up to volunteer at an upcoming gleaning event.
    • If a gleaning volunteer event is not currently available to sign up for, please sign up to receive alerts from OFS about upcoming gleaning opportunities by visiting https://www.operationfoodsearch.org/can-heal-hunger/volunteer-now/.
    • Donate to OFS or MCE to support the gleaning program.
    • Spread the word to farmers you know via email or social media.
    • Follow OFS and MCE social media channels for the latest updates.
      Operation Food Search: Facebook  Instagram Twitter
      Missouri Coalition for the Environment: Facebook Instagram Twitter

What Volunteers Can Expect:

  • Gleaning events will be posted with 1-2 weeks’ notice before the event day.
  • Gleaning events are typically from 8:00-11:00am and can be any day of the business week.
  • As a volunteer, you are responsible for your own transportation to and from the farm.
  • Staff will provide volunteers with gloves, water and hand sanitizer, but please bring your own sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, bug spray, snacks and optional personal gardening gloves.
  • Expect to work in all weather conditions and on rough, uneven terrain.
  • Gleaning will be cancelled in the event of a thunderstorm or other unsafe weather, but gleaning will proceed during uncomfortable weather such as rain or hot, humid temperatures in the 90s.
  • Locations can be about an hour away from metro St. Louis. Please check the location of individual gleaning events before signing up.
  • You will definitely be inspired by this meaningful, labor-intensive activity!

If you have any questions about our gleaning program, please contact Rae Miller at rmiller@moenviron.org or Jack Baran at jack.baran@operationfoodsearch.org.