Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The book of Ruth is one of my favorite books in the entire Bible, mainly because of the loyalty shown by Ruth to her mother in law but also because of the story's mild focus on the practice of gleaning. (If you haven't yet, I recommend reading the Book of Ruth. It's pretty short.)

The Oregon Food Bank defines gleaning as "an ancient practice of collecting the remaining crop from the field after it had been harvested". In Ruth, one of the ways in which Ruth and her mother in law survived was because a man had allowed Ruth to glean in his fields and gather food. 

Gleaning also goes back several centuries in France, where there is a 500 year old law (roughly) that commands French farmers to allow those who are low income or poor to glean their fields.

But for the state of Oregon, groups especially for gleaning have been around since the 1970s. There is an articled called "Urban Food Gleaning, Portland Style" that highlights some of the really great work that some organizations do in the Portland area around gleaning. The article mentions that while the Oregon Food Bank is able to catch a lot of food before it makes it to the landfill (or hopefully it was on its way to the compost), there is still roughly 200,000 TONS of food every year in Portland that is thrown away. 

During my time in the food pantry, it has been really interesting to see how much of our food is actually gleaned. One Trader Joes location donates left over food to us every Friday so far and every Tuesday, a volunteer comes in with gleaned food from other locations. Having this food is amazing because most of it helps us keep our fresh produce section stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. 

However, what I have discovered is that sometimes, there is too much of a good thing. I can't tell you how many bananas we received because the number is in the dozens of dozens (and many more dozens). And while we often get a lot of bread, the difficult thing is that most of the bread is rolls or french bread, instead of the sliced bread most recipients would like. So gleaning can be a great and wonderful thing, along with being a rather interesting problem as well.

The last thing (for now) about gleaning that I'll end with is the Portland based organization called Urban Gleaners. This organization does a lot in regard to growing food, hosting markets for people to buy the food, and also providing ways in which different populations (such as school children) can also access fresh food. 

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