Community-led Gleaning

Since 2012, Feedback has been running Gleaning Network UK to address the issue of farm-level food waste. The project gives volunteers all over the country an opportunity to engage hands-on with the food system by helping to rescue fresh fruits and vegetables from farms where they would otherwise be wasted, and ensuring this food is redirected to organisations helping those in need.

We believe the time is now right for Feedback to help communities to take the lead. Therefore, in 2019 we will offer support and training for a number of groups and organisations in England (for groups in Scotland, Wales and N.I., please see below), giving them the knowledge and experience they need to setup and run their own local/regional gleaning project.

If you are interested to find out more about any of these ideas, or to register an interest in community-led gleaning, we’d love to hear from you. You can fill in the form by clicking here to express your interest. We suggest that you read the brief FAQ below: this will help you to establish whether or not gleaning is right for you.

FAQ

Does my group need to be a formally-structured ‘organisation’ such as a registered charity?

In short, no. We are interested in working with groups, organisations, projects and enterprises of all shapes and sizes. The formal/legal structure of your group is at this point less important than your enthusiasm!

However, organisations with a recognised legal structure (such as charities, community interest companies, cooperatives, etc) may find it easier to make progress in some regards. For example, we recommend that all gleaning groups hold an insurance policy; also, many fundraising opportunities are not available to individuals or unincorporated groups.

Can gleaning projects be set-up in any location?

Gleaning can take place in any region where fruits or vegetables are grown on a commercial scale. Therefore this is the first consideration, or point of research, for any group interested in gleaning. How many orchards, fruit farms or vegetable growers are there within reasonable travel distance? What kinds of fruits and vegetables are being grown? What is the seasonality (harvest time) for those crops?

There is little to no commercial fruit and veg farming in my region – how can I still get involved in food rescue activities?

Although most of Feedback’s expertise lies in gleaning from commercial farms, we can also support and advise you on conducting activities in areas with little to no farming, such as towns, cities and other urban areas. These include, but are not limited to, urban harvesting (harvesting fruit from public parks and resident’s gardens with permission), small scale gleaning from community growing projects and city farms, and collection and distribution from wholesale markets and farmers’ markets.

Is there already a gleaning group in my area?

Feedback currently operates gleaning ‘hubs’ in four counties and regions of England: Kent, Sussex, North West England (chiefly Lancashire and Merseyside) and West England (centred around Bristol):

  • If your group is based in one of these regions, we want to work with you! Your group will be joining an established gleaning network and making it even stronger. There is no shortage of opportunities
  • If your group is not based in one of these regions… we want to work with you! Together we will take on the exciting challenge of bringing gleaning to a new corner of the country.

There is also, to our knowledge, a small number of gleaning groups not connected to Feedback – for example in Devon. We would be very happy to collaborate with these groups.

Other than access to farms, what are the main considerations for setting up a gleaning group?

You will need a team of willing and motivated volunteers to help with harvesting the food. You will also need a plan for how you will distribute or use the food that you recover: often this means working with other charities and groups (for example, charities providing cooked meals), or larger redistribution organisations (e.g. FareShare) able to distribute the food through their network.

Key timescales to be aware of:

Feedback will run the ‘community led gleaning’ project from now until the end of November 2019. During that time we will recruit, train and work with community groups to help them develop their own local/regional gleaning projects. We envisage that these groups will continue gleaning well into the future – both as self-reliant and self-sustaining regional gleaning projects, and as members of a nationwide Gleaning Network through which groups will share with, learn from, and support one another.

We encourage interested groups to join as soon as possible, to take advantage of the full range of support that Feedback can offer.

What kind of support will Feedback provide to groups?

Feedback are able to offer the following:

  • Initial training/workshops in how to setup and run a gleaning project
  • In-field training: you will be invited to attend a gleaning day and ‘shadow’ Feedback’s regional gleaning coordinator to learn the ropes
  • Co-run gleaning days: a member of Feedback staff will attend, and help you prepare and run, your first 2 gleaning days – so will be on hand to offer any advice and support needed
  • An equipment starter pack
  • Financial support to cover the expenses associated with your first gleaning days (volunteer travel, costs of transporting food, etc)
  • Resources: training and reference resources, including an online gleaning manual
  • Introduction to key contacts, for example redistribution organisations such as FareShare
  • Assistance with fundraising bids, to help ensure the legacy of your gleaning project

How much time is required to run a gleaning project? Is this expected to be done on a voluntary basis, or is there funding available for paid staff?

Ultimately it is up to you and your group to decide how much time to commit to gleaning – there is no right or wrong answer. It’s also worth noting that the ‘scale of opportunity’ will be different in each region (e.g. according to how many growers there are), and may also vary season-to season.

As with many community projects, it is very possible to run gleaning on a voluntary basis, especially if there are several people in your group working together. Some groups may prefer to seek funding to pay for a part-time gleaning coordinator: Feedback cannot provide these funds, but we can offer support and advice to help you find and apply for funding.

Is gleaning a large-scale operation? Is my group too small to handle this?

Gleaning groups come in all shapes and sizes. Feedback operate at the larger end of the scale, and often harvest between 1 to 5 tonnes of fruits and vegetables (and sometimes more than 20 tonnes!). However, small is also beautiful – and “little and often” can be a good way to glean. One gleaning group in France makes weekly visits to a series of local farms, sometimes gleaning a few kilograms of salads. There is no one-size-fits all approach; each group operates according to their capacity.

Does my group need to own a vehicle – e.g. a car, van or truck?

Vehicles aren’t essential, but they can be useful for two reasons. Firstly, volunteers will need to travel to the farm; public transport is sometimes an option, but many farms are situated away from good transport routes. Therefore having one or more car-owners within your group or volunteer-pool will be helpful.

Secondly, you need to consider how the produce you glean will be transported from the farm to the organisation(s) who will use it. For smaller-scale gleans, it might be possible to move the produce using a van or a team of cars. For larger-scale gleans, there are organisations such as FareShare who can help with collecting and finding outlets for surplus produce.

What happens beyond November?

By the end of this project, we hope that each of the groups we’ve worked with will have everything they need – knowledge, contacts, funding (if required), enthusiasm and more – to continue gleaning well into the future. Groups will have ongoing access to a range of online resources including a Gleaning Toolkit, and we hope also to have fostered an online community – a true ‘gleaning network’ – through which groups can support one another and share learnings.

While Feedback may be limited in how much direct support we can offer beyond November, we will always be here, and will do our best to provide assistance or advice where needed.

How do I get started?

We’re waiting to hear from you!

Please email james@feedbackglobal.org and ren@feedbackglobal.org, or call the Feedback office on 0203 051 8633