The Gleaning Project: A Community Solution to Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is the household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. 17,790 Franklin County residents (6990 under the age of 18) and over 1.8 million Pennsylvanians are food insecure.

The Gleaning Project, which started in Adams County and expanded into Franklin County by South Central Community Action Programs in 2014, works to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables to our food insecure population by reducing food loss on local farms.

“The root cause of hunger is poverty… and poverty is a community problem, requiring community solutions,” says Jay Eury, the Gleaning Project Coordinator and co-chair of the Healthy Franklin County Food Insecurity work group.

Franklin County is the 2nd most vegetable-producing county in PA. On average, 20% of food grown never leaves the farm. This is perfectly good food that is not profitable to pick or try to sell. From July to November, volunteers glean and distribute this food to anyone in the community who is unable to afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Over 225,000 pounds of fresh produce has been gleaned and over 12,000 food insecure individuals have been fed since the project started in Franklin County.

A complex network of community partners has been critical to the success of The Gleaning Project. In Franklin County, over 20 growers, over 30 food distribution outlets and over 300 volunteers participate. Volunteer roles include in-field gleaners, delivery drivers, produce sorters, produce stand attendants, and food preservation helpers.

Local growers see the project as benefit to them and the community. “With the strict requirements grocery stores have on the appearance of produce and with the uncertainty of the weather, before the Gleaning Project we would just leave produce in the field to rot.  Now our produce goes to thousands of people living in our community.  We love that they get a taste of our produce.  That is very satisfying to me,” said Brent Barnhart, owner of Country Creek Produce Farm in Chambersburg.

After the food is harvested, it is packaged and delivered to local food pantries, free community meals, shelters, senior centers, after-school organizations, weekend backpack programs, and WIC offices - among many other locations.

Brenda Scriptunas and her grand-daughter Jasmine started to volunteer for the Gleaning Project last summer in an apple orchard. “We had fun and felt a great sense of pride in all that we had accomplished in such a short time. Knowing that perfectly good apples we gleaned would be distributed the very next day to those in need all over the County was a wonderful feeling, and a great way to be reminded of how fortunate we are,” said Scriptunas.

The Gleaning Project is launching its inaugural fundraiser, Glean-A-Mania, September 9-September 15th, which will help the program become sustainable.

“We partner with anyone working to reduce hunger, improve nutrition, and strengthen the health of our community,” said Jay Eury.

If you’re interested in becoming a partner to reduce hunger in Franklin County, contact The Gleaning Project.