In his Transition Handbook, Transition Movement founder Rob Hopkins stated that, “Food is the most sensible place to begin rebuilding community resilience, but building materials, fabrics, timber, energy and currencies follow soon after.” To best address the steps toward resilience the Transition Movement has made in the United States over the last ten years, it seems sensible to start with a project that has contributed roughly a quarter-million pounds of organic fruits and vegetables to food insecure families since its inception in 2010. In making the transition to a world where no one is food-deficient, Transition Sarasota’s Suncoast Gleaning Project is guiding the way by enacting a tradition that dates back millennia.
It is estimated that 40-50 percent of all produce in the US is thrown away. In a nation where one in six go hungry every year, nearly 60 million tons of food is wasted, becoming the largest contributor to our already overstuffed landfills. On a global level, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a third of all food is lost or wasted, worth approximately $3 trillion.
In Sarasota, Florida, a movement has started to curb that wastefulness.
“I had previously facilitated a gleaning outing for Transition Colorado, and was inspired by seeing what a big difference a small group of volunteers could make in just a few hours by harvesting produce that would otherwise go to waste,” says project founder Don Hall. “When I moved back to Sarasota, I already had a strong relationship with Jessica’s Organic Farm and knew that there was a lot of surplus produce that could be gleaned there on a regular basis.”
The practice of gleaning has occurred in a variety of cultures and traditions. The custom can be found in several passages of the Old Testament, encouraging harvesters to leave the edges of the field and what is dropped during the harvest for the poor, the fatherless, widows, and foreigners. To not do so was a punishable offense among the Hebrews.