If you have been to our Seacoast Eat Local booth or have been to the SAMM van recently, you might have seen a poster looking for volunteers for NH Gleans. But what is
gleaning, you might ask? Gleaning is the gathering of all edible fruits and vegetables from a farm’s crop plots that may have been missed during picking or were not thought to be suitable to sell. Volunteers work with growers/homeowners and NH Gleans staff to gather the crops off trees, bushes, vines, orchards, and fields, and the gleaned crops will then be donated to various local hunger-relief programs. NH Gleans is a network of organizations who work together to glean all across New Hampshire and provide locally grown produce to food pantries, soup kitchens, community meals, and local schools. NH Gleans is also supported by Farm to School, a program that works to engage many health and food-related organizations in farm to fork/farm to school practices.
So, who can glean? Depending on the glean, anyone can glean! (Though anyone under 18 must be supervised by an adult and cannot use ladders or equipment, climbing trees is never allowed, and some gleans are more child-friendly than others depending on the age of the child.) You can fill in a volunteer registration form at http://www.nhgleans.org/pickerinsert.php and participate in any of the gleans that are listed, no matter where you live, so long as you can get there. You can bring a friend so long as you register them before the glean (they need to make sure they don’t have too few or too many gleaners for one pick!) and children can accompany parents so long as they are supervised and the glean is appropriate for the child’s age and activity. For every new volunteer, after you register on the site, a page will come up with helpful information about the glean, what you might need to bring, what to expect, and where the glean is. There will be a short orientation about gleaning and what to do, and before you know it, you will be gleaning to help support your local community!
Gleaning can also happen at farmers’ markets and on the SAMM van. In this instance, customers may choose to donate produce (consider buying an extra bunch of carrots or pound of zucchini!) or farms will donate product at the end of the day that they have not sold. On SAMM, unsold product is donated at the end of each week to a local pantry.
The Gleaning network has a relationship with local pantries to schedule deliveries of fresh, perishable product. As a private citizen, you can also donate fresh product to a pantry but you should first consult with a manager or staff person to make sure that the pantry can accommodate it. Sometimes there is a lack of cold storage, a too-long wait time before the next open pantry day or too little staff capacity to deal with the demands of fresh produce. A pantry should always know and agree on a donation of fresh product.
For more information, contact information, and volunteer registration for NH Gleans, visit http://www.nhgleans.org/index.php.