All About Gleaning: Rescuing Nature’s Bounty

The SLO Food Bank Food Rescue program, GleanSLO, harvests produce (called “gleaning”) that would otherwise go to waste from farms, orchards, and backyards and distribute it through our Hunger Relief Network to neighbors in need across the county.

San Luis Obispo County is a region of vast abundance, yet only a portion of the population has consistent access to healthy fruits and vegetables. Despite San Luis Obispo County grossing over a billion dollars annually in agricultural goods, an estimated 8.4% of residents are considered food insecure. At the same time, local growers face the formidable challenge of persistent drought conditions. These arid spells strain the farming community and result in unharvested crops. GleanSLO addresses this issue and redistributes the food to people facing food insecurity.


What is Gleaning?

Gleaning is the collection of leftover crops both large and small, from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or from fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. GleanSLO has expanded this definition to include the collection of surplus produce from backyards and gardens of community residents. 


Commercial growers and homeowners alike can offer up produce in their fields, backyards, and gardens by registering their crops online, to become a tax-deductible donation to the SLO Food Bank. Our dedicated program staff then organizes a harvest, and volunteers, protected by liability waivers, gather the bounty. 


Finally, this fresh produce reaches our neighbors in need via Direct Service programs like Neighborhood Food Distributions and Children’s/Senior’s Farmers Markets, and our network of nonprofit Agency Partners. Remarkably, each year hundreds of thousands of pounds of locally harvested produce find their way to those who need it most, fostering a healthier community. 


The communal benefits of gleaning are three-fold.  

Environmentally, gleaning diverts produce from the landfill which, had it been disposed of, would cause emissions of greenhouse gases which influence air quality and climate conditions.  

Economically, neighbors in need are provided free and nutritious produce, enabling them to save money for other essential needs.  

Socially, community is cultivated by bringing volunteers together to harvest and educating them on local food systems.  

Get Involved

There are a number of ways to get involved in gleaning through the SLO Food Bank including:

Learn more about getting involved by visiting our Food Rescue page today.