The History of Gleaning
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.