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Gleaning: A Way to Feed Those at Risk for Hunger

Lisa Ousley, West Headquarters director of the Society of St. Andrew, was a guest presenter during the recent AARP Missouri Executive Council meeting. Ousley made a pitch for AARP Missouri volunteers, members and staff to engage in gleaning projects throughout the state.

See Also: Drive to End Hunger

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested, or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. All kinds of fruits and vegetables are gleaned and donated to local food banks and pantries for those at risk of hunger.

“The Society of St. Andrew was founded during the recession 33 years ago by two Methodist ministers from Virginia who saw the waste and also saw the need,” Ousley said. “The mission makes sense because it’s good common sense. It’s getting perfectly good food that may not be pretty enough to sell commercially to people who need it.”

According to Ousley, gleaning shifts are three to four hours and usually in the a.m. when the weather is coolest. “We welcome all ages,” Ousley said. “People who are 50 and over can relate to this type of work, and children are taught where food comes from, so it’s an educational tool as well.” She said that nationally there are 30,000 people who volunteer annually for gleaning. “In the Kansas City area, we have about 1300 volunteers,” she said, and added that may more volunteers are needed.

Volunteers are required to provide their own transportation, but boxes and other containers for gleaned food are provided by the Society of St. Andrew. Gleaners are encouraged to bring sunglasses, gloves and appropriate clothing suitable for the task, and wear sunscreen. “We welcome groups and they can designate the food pantries of food banks they wish to support” Ousley explained.

“You would be surprised to learn that growers are really glad to help in this effort,” Ousley said. “They’re able to help people in their community and their hard work is not wasted.” In 2011, 28 million pounds of food was gleaned nationwide. In Ousley’s Western District, more than three million pounds was collected last year.
“Collaboration with the Society of St. Andrew is an exceptional opportunity for AARP Missouri,” said Craig Eichelman, state director. “Their work dovetails quite well with our Drive to End Hunger initiative that seeks to help more than 9 million older adults nationwide who are at risk for hunger.”

Ousley can be reached at 816-921-0856 or

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