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The History of Gleaning

Updated on October 31, 2009

According to Webster's Dictionary glean means to gather grain or other produce left by reapers. Gleaning has been around since Biblical times when Jews didn't harvest all the crops in order to leave some for the poor (Leviticus and Deuteronomy). It has been happening ever since and is a way for needy people to get their share of foods. At times it has been illegal and at times gleaning has fallen by the wayside in favor of other things, but gleaning is still alive and well today.

When large farm equipment comes through and harvests a field, the equipment is not capable of getting the entire crop up. The perfectly good food that is left will typically rot on the ground. Gleaning is a way of allowing people to come and get what they need after the main crop has been harvested. Some farms allow their farm workers to glean the harvested rows at the end of the day as part of their pay. During the dust bowl of the 1930's people traveled across the country in hopes of getting a job that would allow them to glean food to bring back to their families.

In America, there has been a renewed effort to glean perfectly edible foods from farmer's fields and get them to the hungry. There are organizations that specifically handle gleaning food for the poor. There are farms that will give all fruits or vegetables that aren't perfect to food banks. Smaller farms will allow people from the community to come glean foods from their fields. Sometimes they charge a small amount of money, but it is much less than what these foods would cost in the store. In some places, rather than gleaning the leftovers, farmers are planting extra specifically for food banks.  Here in Ohio any gardener can plant an extra row for the needy.  I think this is a great way to get fresh foods to food banks where they can help people the most. 

When we lived in Colorado, a farmer decided to open up his fields for one day to anyone interested in gleaning after his main harvest was done. Imagine his surprise when thousands of people showed up in hopes of gleaning food to help their family. The need is definitely there, as farmers in CO quickly found out. Let's get the word out about gleaning and maybe we can make this an even more common practice so that more and more people could be helped.


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    • jaybojas profile image


      9 years ago

      ooops i mean gleaning. :)

    • jaybojas profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice hub. Love to be a fan. And can cleaning applied to the restaurant or the stores? Instead of dumping the leftovers or unused materials etc etc, cant they give it to the people who really need them. I mean there's homeless almost in all the corners and struggling families. And in addition to janddplus4, how about giving those stuffs to the employees and sign a paper of not suing each other. I'm sure the employees will glad to share them with someone they know whose in need.

    • johnsmarry profile image


      9 years ago

      Ultimately one is survived here and there. Your article is liked too much because of its morality. Readers are stressed to think to help the others. We can make the world pleasure if all of us motivate ourselves in accordance to the morality focused in your article.

    • Rebecca Avery profile image

      Rebecca Avery 

      9 years ago from Ft. Worth, TX

      What a wonderful practice. It reminds me of the days when my grandfather was a share cropper in E.Tx during the depression. A share cropper was in essence doing major gleaning. I think gleaning today would help families feel better about accepting handouts. What concerns me are the disabled shut-ins who are too sick to even glean. We need to help them more. How nice it would be to extend a hand to them by gleaning a little more for a shutin in your area. Perhaps you can contact Meals On Wheels and ask them to ask some of their shut-ins if they would enjoy fresh produce. The meals they are typically distributed are almost always frozen TV dinner type meals that lack flavor or much quality. The recipients are usually more excited to have someone come to their door than the food itself.

      Thanks for this enlightening article.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      nice hub, thank you

    • neysajasper profile image


      9 years ago

      Genuine thoughts obviously are not easily available. Noble educational supports and environment are the basic need. Combination of all such nobility is reflected under your statements which indicate all of us to have a soft corner for poor. Through this quotation you have conveyed your spiritual thoughts worldwide.

    • janddplus4 profile image


      9 years ago

      My husband works remodeling Wal-Mart stores. The remodeling is all done during the night, and he gets to see what else goes on at night....Wal-Mart takes all the day old things from the deli and bakery, as well as the less than perfect produce and clothing left over unsold from the bargain racks, and they throw it all in huge compactors. The food they throw out is perfectly edible, and the clothes are not good as new--they ARE new! Why don't they donate this food? My husband asked, and he was told Wal-Mart doesn't want to be sued by anyone for getting sick from old food. As for the clothing? It would cost more money to pack it and send it somewhere for donation than to simply get rid of it. What have we come to when we can't give things away for fear of being sued?

    • UPStar profile image


      9 years ago

      This is great! I thought of this myself recently, when I observed how much food resteraunts and nursing homes dispose of so employees wont cook "extra" for themselves! But why not donate that food to homeless shelters.. or some organization where it will help feed families in some way? Wouldn't this also be a modern day version of gleaning? It seems a terrible sin to waste so much food when people are struggling to make ends meet.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Interesting hub. And gleaning would cut down on waste as well. It's a sin, when you have people who are poor and starving in this world to think that so much waste goes on in this country.


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