Douglas County using gleaning partnerships to expand food recovery services from area farm fields

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Seeking to build upon a two-year grant it received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last fall, Douglas County this week announced a new prong of its strategy to reduce community food waste: gleaning.

Gleaning is the process of manually going through fields that have been mechanically harvested to recover whatever food or produce the machines might have missed. And on Wednesday, the Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Office announced two new partnerships with organizations that specialize in the gleaning method of food recovery: After the Harvest, based in Kansas City, Missouri, and Community Organized Gleaners, a grassroots volunteer group of experienced farmers.

The goal, the office said in a press release, is to rescue fruits and vegetables from local farm fields and distribute them to Douglas County agencies that provide food and shelter assistance to community members.

Jamie Hofling Volunteers with Community Organized Gleaners glean crops at Moon on the Meadow farm in March 2021.

“Part of our farm mission is to provide all persons with fresh and local produce and collaborating with the gleaning program allows us to actively work towards this goal,” Jill Elmers, who owns Moon on the Meadow farm, said in the release. “Working with the volunteers and seeing what they can pick and gather from fields ready to be turned under is truly amazing and inspiring.”

Moon on the Meadow is one of the Douglas County partners in the USDA grant, which was awarded to only 13 communities across the country last year. Other partners include Just Food, the Lawrence Community Shelter, Sunrise Project and KU Center for Environmental Policy.

In 2020, local gleaning in Douglas County recovered 2,644 pounds of food from four local farms between July and October, the Sustainability Office said in a press release. And already in 2021, volunteers recovered 40 pounds of spinach from Moon on the Meadow, which was then donated across the county.

To volunteer as an individual or as a group, sign up on this Douglas County form.

Local producers or farmers interested in the program can contact Jamie Hofling at Hofling recently joined Douglas County as a food waste reduction specialist, thanks to funding provided by the USDA grant.

Jamie Hofling Packaged spinach is pictured at Moon on the Meadow farm after gleaning in March 2021.
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