The Gleaning Network UK organises teams of volunteers to visit local farms and glean produce left unharvested in the fields to donate to food poverty charities.
This age old practice is now being reintroduced into Sussex via the Gleaning Network UK’s new Sussex hub; whose launch Gleaning day in Sussex will be featuring with Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall in his new series River Cottage to the Core.
The Gleaning Network UK’s Sussex hub is looking for farmers, who may expect to have some crops left in their fields at any point during the year, to join the scheme.
“We’re very excited to be spreading the practice of Gleaning in Sussex, and looking forward to working with local farmers to save some of their unused produce for charitable use,” said Bernie Thompson, the Gleaning Network UK’s Sussex Coordinator.
“In our experience farmers who have spent a lot of time, energy and resources to grow a crop try their best to use it all; however, sometimes some produce is the wrong size or shape for retailers, or it is simply uneconomical to harvest it all. This is where we can help and save this produce for those in desperate need of food.”
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 20% of fruit and vegetables grown in Europe are lost from the food chain at farm level. Whilst the Soil association estimate that 20-40% of UK Fruit and vegetables are rejected on cosmetic grounds before they reach the consumer.
This is at a time when food poverty is rapidly on the increase in the UK with Oxfam warning that over 500,000 people are now resorting to food banks, a number that has tripled in one year.
An ancient solution to these problems is ‘Gleaning’, a practice that dates back to biblical times and was widespread in Europe during the middle ages.
The modern version of Gleaning is for volunteers to save a tonne or more of unwanted fruit and vegetable in a single day, donating them to redistribution charities like FareShare. Where it is used to tackle food poverty via projects such as homeless shelters and food banks.
Nathan Au, Project Manager at FareShare Brighton and Hove said: “Working with the Gleaning Network is a great partnership, the fresh fruit and vegetables that they provide are vital to the health and wellbeing of the clients that we serve and the FareShare distribution network gets it to those who need it quickly”
The Gleaning Network UK was founded by Feeding the 5000 and Food Waste campaigner Tristram Stuart and has recently expanded into a national project with 6 regional hubs: in Sussex, Kent, London, Manchester, Bristol and Cambridge.
To date about 30 tonnes of produce, including apples, pears, plums, strawberries, cauliflower, cabbages and parsnips have been gleaned by around 160 volunteers over 15 gleaning days; including a UK national record for the largest ever glean with approximately 11,000 cauliflowers harvested over two days in July.
The Gleaning Network UK is a unique partnership with farmers helping them reduce food waste and redistributes quality fresh produce to charities that are fighting increasing levels of food poverty in the UK. Farmers and volunteers who want to join the scheme or find out more should contact Bernie Thompson of the Gleaning Network UK on firstname.lastname@example.org
Report and pictures submitted by The Gleaning Network UK