Taking the food waste fight to the fields

Phil Holtam, Sussex gleaning coordinator at Feedback tells us what this ‘gleaning’ is all about.

Giving up a Saturday in summertime to tackle food waste on farms is no small sacrifice, especially when it involves hard work under the sun. But, that’s exactly what 45 generous volunteers did when they joined Sussex gleaning network’s sweetcorn harvest. Gleaning involves a fun day out in the countryside – here’s what we got up to.

Mark Stroude from Culver farm, has kindly hosted gleans before. Culver’s sweetcorn farm is one of the biggest corn growers in the country, producing tens of millions of ears of corn each year. When demand slumps off and production is still going strong, it’s difficult for Mark’s buyers to match the quantity his farm grows, which is where Feedback’s gleaning network comes in.

Feedback is one of Our Bright Future’s project partners. They work with Foodcycle to deliver the From Farm to Fork project which gleans surplus food to provide community meals.

The eager gleaners set to work harvesting corn into reused potato sacks. On Mark’s advice, the corn was gleaned row by row and signs were left for the harvesting machinists as to what we had picked. We took a break for a delicious lunch in a neighbouring field, which included a few raw ears of corn.

There were many young volunteers, among whom were friends Hannah and Zoe. Hannah said she really enjoyed “saving so much food from being wasted while meeting loads of interesting people in a sunny field!” and gaining “an understanding of how much food is wasted on farms”. Zoe said her favourite part was “meeting such a range of people and having a productive and proactive day”.

The afternoon gleaning session featured some stellar carrying efforts. Farhad, aged 17 from Southwick, said: “I really, really enjoyed picking sweetcorn. It’s nice to be with other people working together and the first time I have done this in the UK. In Afghanistan we used to do similar things. We don’t want to waste food because it tastes nice and some people don’t have enough”.

Around 3pm a van arrived from UK Harvest, a food-waste distribution initiative based in Chichester, to collect 200kg worth of sweetcorn. The vast bulk of the produce gleaned was put onto pallets for collection by FareShare UK and FareShare Sussex. In total, approximately 5,030kg of sweetcorn was harvested, which is equivalent to over 60,000 portions. This was delivered to depots around the UK, from where they were redistributed to hundreds of homeless hostels, drug rehabilitation centres, women’s refuge centres, breakfast clubs, and other charities helping people in need.

A massive thank you to all the volunteers for all your hard work – we couldn’t do it without you. If you’d like to join us on a glean, just sign up to our gleaning list.  Hope to see you in the fields!

Find out more about the From Farm to Fork project here.

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