Partner Profile: Association of Gleaning Organizations
The Association of Gleaning Organizations builds the capacity of organizations recovering fresh fruits and vegetables from farms, gardens, and backyards across North America. By engaging communities to harvest surplus produce, vulnerable populations are provided with increased access to wholesome foods. Our network of gleaning organizations is adaptable, sustainable, and connected.
We had chance to catch up with Shawn Peterson, a founding member of the Association of Gleaning Organizations to hear more about their work.
A little bit about Shawn: Shawn is a sixth-generation farmer who has worked in many aspects of the food system. He has been a baker, a farm hand, a restaurant owner, farmer and food advocate. He cares deeply about the land and those who live on it.
More about the Association of Gleaning Organizations:
Give us your elevator pitch!
Our goal is to build the capacity of gleaning organizations and address the issue of on-farm food loss. Currently, there are 172 gleaning organizations in North America combating the interconnected issues of food waste and hunger. More than 41 million people go hungry and many more can’t afford to eat nutritious food. At the same time, we grow and waste enough food to feed an additional 130 million people.
Gleaners recover around 50,000 tons of food each year, a small fraction of the 10 million tons that goes unharvested. Most gleaning organizations are small, volunteer-run organizations with small budgets and an overwhelming amount of produce to harvest. These organizations struggle due to lack of resources and isolation from one another. We aim to grow the capacity and reach of gleaning organizations around the nation to seize the opportunity to recover the abundance of food left unharvested on farms and in backyards.
What is one thing that makes your organization stand out?
Many groups are addressing food waste in other areas, but little attention has been given to on-farm food loss. This is evident in the lack of data available, and in the amount of food being recovered. Gleaning is often left out of the conversation about food recovery and hunger relief. We are working to change this.
Are there any organizations or individuals you look to as a role model in your work? Why? (Name just two please!)
The National Farm to School Network and NIFTI because both of these organizations simultaneously managed to raise public awareness about the importance of the work they are supporting while building the capacity of their members.
Systems Leadership Approach
How does The Association of Gleaning Organizations partner with others to catalyze systems change?
As an organization we don’t make any change; it is all done by our members. Our association is only possible due to the willingness of our members to collaborate and work together. We are member controlled and operated. Our members decide everything as a group. We in turn hope our association can work with others in the food system to create a system that is dramatically less wasteful with equitable access to healthy foods.
The Association of Gleaning Organizations Learnings:
Given what you know now, what is one thing you wish you’d done differently as the organization developed?
We are relatively young as an organization so it is hard to say what we would do differently. I feel like all the mistakes we are going to regret are being made right now. But the one thing I can say is that collaborative work takes time. Much longer than you think it will take but the results are worth it.
What is one of The Association of Gleaning Organizations’ proudest achievements?
Our proudest achievement is how member focused and member led we are. Our members have decided what services we should offer, how we are structured, and what our priorities and mission are. They truly have been involved in every step of our formation.
What is one challenge you’re facing right now? Anything your fellow FSLN members might be able to help with?
Raising awareness: Tell gleaning organization about us, tell farmers struggling to manage excess produce about us, talk with your network about on-farm food loss. Lastly, we are building a board and would love some non-gleaners on it. If you have experience building a community of practice and are interested in joining our board, please reach out.
Have you created any useful processes/resources that you’re particularly excited about? If so, please share!
We are currently working on creating the first ever snapshot of gleaning in North America. This resource will tell the story and impact of the gleaning movement. We are really excited about it.
Thank you, Shawn, it was great to hear more about the Association of Gleaning Organizations!