Organization redistributes gleaned produce to low-income areas


Glean KY

Aspen Gage

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One organization in Lexington is doing their part to battle food waste and hunger in Kentucky.

Glean KY, a charity-based organization, goes to supermarkets, groceries, farms, and orchards to “glean” or collect fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be thrown out.

Glean KY combats the lack of affordability and accessibility to produce in low-income areas by taking the produce from far away places and expensive markets and delivering them directly to ministries and organizations that provide for the community.

According to Glean KY coordinator Todd Johnson, the gleaning process never stops, but collection does slow down in times that certain farm crops are not in season. In this case, the organization relies on their volunteers to go and glean from local supermarkets and groceries, collecting fruits and vegetables that are deemed “not good for sale.”

From here, volunteers will take the food straight to services like churches and the Hope Center, where their workers will then distribute the food to those in need.

“We try to serve all the under-served populations, which can change over time,” Johnson said. “We do a lot for the Latino community, the refugee community. We do a lot for kids and backpack programs.”

Johnson said a challenge that they face from serving such a large demographic of people is getting them to incorporate strange or exotic foods into their meals. Glean KY works to combat this by partnering with different organizations to bring food education to the Lexington community. 

According to Johnson, last December Glean KY and their volunteers connected with Whole Foods and made 130 pumpkins pies to deliver to homes.

“It eliminates a barrier that way,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, once the food has been processed they might be more willing to incorporate it.”

Glean KY is having their 8th annual Heirloom Seed Sale on Saturday. Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been harvested and passed down through generations of family, making them high quality. They are non-GMO also, which is uncommon in mainstream seed sales.

The seeds self-pollinate and are long lasting, so they do not have to be re-bought every time they are planted. This sale benefits the expansion of Glean KY to different counties in Kentucky. The event is from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Hunter Presbyterian Church.

Caroline Eastus, an undecided freshman, said she plans to attend the seed sale this year with friends that encouraged her to try it.

“I’m not from here, so I always look for an opportunity to try cool stuff,” Eastus said. “So we’re all going together, I’m excited. I hope the weather is good.”

Glean KY has gleaned 11,572 pounds of produce in 2016 and volunteered 2,404 hours in 2015, according to their website.

“A value of ours is that we want to be community builders,” Johnson said. “The numbers are really important to us; we gleaned over 850,000 pounds since 2010. I think we’ll reach the one million pound mark by the end of this year.”