A local tomato farm might only pick its green tomatoes for shipment and sale, leaving the ripe red fruit to rot in the fields.
But now GleanSLO, a program under the auspices of the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, is collecting and distributing the leftover produce to the hungry.
Gleaning is not a new concept, but GleanSLO is the first concerted local movement to connect growers with volunteers and ultimately, low-income individuals.
Last year it contributed more than 22,000 pounds to the local food bank, according to co-coordinator Caroline Ginsberg. She expects that number to double this year.
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And that’s still “just scraping the surface” of what’s possible, Ginsberg said.
The organization was awarded a $5,000 United Way Innovation Award this year under the premise that “GleanSLO is not just a program; it’s a movement to purposefully re-engage SLO County residents in farming, healthy eating, and providing nutritious food for those in need,” Ginsberg wrote in a recent news release.
Several organizations including Cal Poly STRIDE (Science through Translational Research in Diet and Exercise), Transition Towns, SUSTAIN-SLO (the Sino-US Strategic Alliance for Innovation), Central Coast Ag Network, One Cool Earth and SLO Grown Kids also collaborate through GleanSLO to fulfill their missions.
GleanSLO has expanded the definition of gleaning to include not only the collection of leftover crops from commercially harvested fields or fields that are unprofitable to harvest, but also the surplus produce from backyards and gardens of community residents.
Farmers can also receive tax benefits for their produce donations because of recent legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to Food Bank executive director Carl Hansen.
A meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon today at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Memorial Building, 801 Grand Ave., for those interested in learning more about participating in GleanSLO.
Ag Against Hunger executive director Karen DeWitt will explain how her Monterey County nonprofit has worked with its agricultural community.
If possible, sign up in advance with GleanSLO coordinator Caroline Ginsberg at 835-3750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.