Getting Gleaning Going in Neighboring Communities

Alameda Backyard Growers--Members of Project Pick harvest excess fruit from Alameda backyards and donate them to the Alameda Food Bank.

Getting Gleaning Going in Neighboring Communities

Community organizations in other cities now have a handy tool for setting up their own food recovery or gleaning groups thanks to the new booklet produced by StopWaste and Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG). The publication, Gleaning Guide: How to Start a Gleaning Program in Your Community, is available online on both the ABG and StopWaste websites (https://alamedabackyardgrowers.org/gleaning-guide/).

ABG’s Project Pick has been gleaning — or harvesting excess fresh fruit — from Alameda backyards and donating it to the Alameda Food Bank since 2011. The group has donated more than 47 tons of fresh produce to food insecure people in our community. ABG has continued to work through the pandemic to support the Alameda Food Bank by working in pairs rather than large groups, for the safety of the tree owners, pickers, and food bank staff. This summer, local stone fruit trees including plums, apricots, and peaches are having a bumper crop, thanks to the big rains in late October. So far in 2022, the group has picked 3,777 lbs. of fruit.

Even with a van, harvesting tools, and, most importantly, dozens of amazing volunteers, ABG has its hands full just keeping up with demand from fruit donors in Alameda. That’s why it’s heartbreaking when people from outside of Alameda ask the group to pick their trees. Requests from Oakland and Berkeley can be forwarded to the Oakland Gleaners and the Berkeley Mutual Aid Gleaning Program. But there are no programs right now in neighbor cities such as San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward and Orinda, but there are many requests from those areas for help with gleaning.

As a public agency, StopWaste’s mandate includes supporting food recovery groups, and they offered a grant to ABG to propagate the community gleaning model in other Alameda County cities. The new gleaning guide was created. The guide provides useful tips on starting, organizing and publicizing a new gleaning program. ABG carried out several online presentations to food recovery and food sharing groups throughout the East Bay. ABG is eager to mentor other community groups that would like to start harvesting and donating fruit in their community. Project Pick also joined the Alameda County Food Recovery Stakeholder Network to further support the work of like-minded organizations.

Why are the folks in Alameda Backyard Growers so focused on spreading the word about gleaning? Because they are passionate about what Project Pick does. It feeds hungry neighbors, helps stop food waste (landfill food rot creates methane, a greenhouse gas at least 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide), helps fight climate change (by maintaining trees in healthy soil that stores carbon) and most importantly, it builds community. The volunteer pickers and fruit donors working together create connections that continue to make Alameda a resilient and caring city.

Alameda Backyard Growers is dedicated to teaching our neighbors how to grow food. During this difficult time, our education program has moved online. Visit us at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.org to join our mailing list to receive our educational newsletters and information on classes and events, locate the Free Seed Library nearest you, or join Project Pick as a fruit picker or fruit donor. Contact ABG at info@alamedabackyardgrowers.org.