food waste

Stopping harvest loss with the Gleaning Network

The other day a great image popped up in my Instagram feed. It showed a small crowd of volunteers standing in front of five tonnes of sweetcorn that had been gathered by the Gleaning Network. This is corn that would have been ploughed back into the field, as it was surplus to requirements. This is common practice on British farms, where farmers grow more than they need to guarantee that they meet the picky aesthetic standards of the supermarkets. Once the supermarket has taken what it needs, there’s no buyer for the excess and it is often left to rot away in the fields.

To save that food and get it to hungry people, The Gleaning Network marshals teams of volunteers to harvest and redistribute the crop. There are local hubs of volunteers, and if you want to join in, you can sign up to the mailing list and get a notification if there’s a gleaning opportunity near you.

The Gleaning Network is organised by Feedback, the food waste charity that grew out of Tristram Stuart’s book Waste. I thought I’d written about them before, but I remembered that it was in a research paper and not the blog. Better late than never, and thanks to Phil Holtam and his instagram feed for the reminder.


  1. Gleaning unharvested food is a great idea, but how useful is five tonnes of sweetcorn (or any one thing) going to be? Not many foodbanks take fresh food, people at a soup kitchen want a choice. Only supermarkets have the supply chains to use that scale of produce before it rots.

    1. That’s true, and it would be a shame if the gleaners picked it all only for it to be thrown away because nobody could use it. But they do have established networks for using crops, and presumably they wouldn’t call out the volunteers unless they knew it was worth their while. The network has several different partners that help to redistribute food and put it to good use.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: