Reducing Food Waste Across Tennessee

Written by Brook Powell | Posted on March 29, 2019

The statistics are staggering; 40 percent of all food produced in the United States goes uneaten, yet an estimated 42 million Americans are food insecure.[1] A significant contributing factor to food waste is food loss that occurs at the agricultural level of our food system. The primary causes of agricultural related food loss are market conditions that make harvesting fields unprofitable, that require farmers to plant surplus crops, and that reject fruits and vegetables that have cosmetic imperfections[2].

Fortunately, a growing number of Americans have recognized the opportunity presented by these large quantities of unharvested crops and other foods which may have been harvested but were not destined for markets, and are doing something about it[3].

One of the ways that communities and organizations across the country are addressing the problem of wasted food as well as creating an opportunity for feeding the food insecure population is through restoring the time-honored tradition of gleaning. The history of gleaning goes back to the 18th century in Europe, where peasants and those without land were allowed to pick from fields and orchards for leftover fruits and vegetables. Over the years, gleaning has evolved and today there are many organizations and volunteers who work to gather leftover food for donation to local food banks, pantries, soup kitchens,and other agencies to feed food insecure people.

The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) is a national organization that works tirelessly to coordinate gleaning opportunities with growers, volunteers, and distribution agencies through the Tennessee Gleaning Network. To date, over 17 million pounds of produce, totaling nearly 52 million servings, have been given to Tennessee communities experiencing hunger and poverty. The Tennessee Gleaning Network requires thousands of hours of volunteer support and is welcoming new volunteers of all ages and organizations to participate. To offer your support, simply complete a volunteer form online here or call the Program Coordinator, Kelsey Miller at 615-878-9233. Go gleaning!

[1] Dana Gunders. 2017. Wasted: How America
is Losing up to 40 Percent of its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. R:
17-05-A. Natural Resource Defense Council. Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew P.
Rabbitt, Christian A. Gregory, and Anita Singh. 2017. Household Food Security
in the United States in 2016, ERR-237, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic
Research Service.

[2] As estimated 20 billion pounds of
produce is lost on farms each year. ReFED, A Roadmap to Reduce US Food Waste by
20 Percent, (2016),

[3] Society of St. Andrew. 2017. Impact Report.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2019 - 3:42:18