- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: workshop
- Sustainable Communities: community development, local and regional food systems
There were approximately 13.7 million households in the United States in 2019 which experienced food insecurity, meaning they did not have the adequate resources to have food to meet their needs. There are also an estimated 40% of foods in the United States which go to waste. One way in which these challenges intersect is the quantity of quality produce that remains unharvested on farms or unsold within markets, which could be otherwise distributed to people experiencing hunger as a result of food insecurity. Gleaning is the process of volunteers harvesting or otherwise recovering quality produce from farms and markets to redistribute through regional and local hunger relief programs. Participating in gleaning can support long-term sustainability goals of agricultural productivity, environmental stewardship, financial profitability, farmer/grower quality of life, and societal goals of addressing hunger associated with food insecurity. Farmers are documented to have liability and logistical concerns which are barriers to them participating in gleaning programs. Through a three-tiered project, we propose to increase awareness of gleaning as a practice, promote relationships between gleaners, farmers/growers, and farmers market managers, and identify how to mitigate produce safety risks associated with gleaning. We will utilize the pre-existing Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce (ESLGP) program, designed to meet required produce safety education requirements for small-scale farmers/growers with a companion program for farmers market managers and instructional video for farmworkers, to develop customized educational materials specific to gleaning. Farmers/growers will receive information related to the benefits of gleaning, risks associated with gleaning and how to mitigate them, and how to develop a relationship with local gleaners. Farmers market managers will receive information related to the benefits of gleaning, risks associated with gleaning and how to mitigate them, how to develop a relationship with local gleaners, and how to promote gleaning amongst their vendors. Gleaners will receive relevant produce safety information prior to their volunteer shift so they can arrive prepared to safely participate in the program. All program participants will be asked to complete an assessment to measure change in their knowledge of gleaning and gleaning safety, as well as an evaluation to determine their intent to participate in gleaning and implement the safety practices covered as part of the training. Data collected will be utilized to inform future program modifications. We believe that as a result of participating in the program, participants will have increased knowledge of gleaning, increased intent to participate in gleaning, and increased intent to implement relevant gleaning safety practices.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Empower farmers/growers to establish relationships with gleaning programs
- Provide farmers market managers with information to promote gleaning/donation with their vendors
- Educate gleaning volunteers to implement safe produce handling practices