Make use of all good produce

The West Virginia Farmers Market Association and the WV Appalachian Foodshed Project (AFP) are pleased to announce the launch of a program to explore and encourage best practices for connecting WV markets to the emergency food system that serves the food insecure in your community. Funding is provided through a grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program. Through a competitive application process, 3 West Virginia farmers markets will be selected to participate in the Farmers Market Gleaning Project during the 2015 market season. Participating markets will receive up to $3,000 in funding to set up “gleaning programs” at their market, connecting farmers market products to entities like food pantries and soup kitchens, either through food sales, donations or other mechanisms. This money can be used for expenses directly related to the project, such as money for market manager time, marketing dollars for promotional events related to the project or mileage for transportation of gleaned produce.

Markets will be required to collect data on a weekly basis, reporting monthly to the project managers. At the conclusion of the season, the markets will report back to the project managers regarding the lessons learned through their pilot projects. In early 2016, a toolkit will be developed based on this project, which can be used by other markets interested in setting up gleaning project.


According to preliminary research by Jessica Crum, a WVU Agricultural Economics graduate student, very few WV farmers markets are currently connected to service agencies helping the hungry in their communities. Improving and encouraging these connections is important to community food security.

Community food security can be defined as “a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet [in a manner] that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice.”

At the AFP Search Conference in March 2012, nutritionists, producers, academics, extension agents, community organizers, and emergency food providers engaged in a discussion about the importance of our work, and the idea of “food security” in our regional context. To guide the conversation, we used the Whole Measures for Community Food Systems as a basis for establishing shared values, vision, and understanding around community food security.

According to the AFP participants, community food security involves:

  • Ensuring that healthy food is accessible and available to all community members
  • Empowering communities to determine where/how to focus work for food system change
  • Cultivating ecologically and financially sustainable agriculture
  • Balancing food security and farm security
  • Engaging youth and young people Fostering a healthier community
  • Working for justice and equity
  • Your farmers market could work to cure hunger in your community!

Why is “Gleaning” important?

Many farmers markets meet only once a week to sell their products. Sometimes there are left over products that may not last until the following week. Many farmers market vendors end up throwing away or “composting” these items. Instead of tossing these nutritious foods, they can be donated to worthy organizations and/or needy individuals if the market has a plan in place to do so.

The Issue of “Gleaning”

Gleaning is defined as, “to gather grain or the like, after the reapers or regular gatherers.” In other words, this type of program would allow the left overs to be gathered and given back to the community. These types of programs encourage local vendors to donate unsold produce and create a more food secure environment.

Benefits of “Gleaning”

  • Makes Fresh, Local products available to underserved individuals
  • Offers a use for products that are perishable before next week’s market
  • Promotes Good Publicity with the community
  • Builds Relationships with other groups and organizations
  • Fosters Good Feelings about helping others
  • Promotes Agriculture in a positive way
  • Encourages other people to contribute to the community

Identifying Donation Sites Locally

  • Local Organizations; food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters
  • Non-profit organizations; schools, churches
  • Senior Care Programs; senior citizen centers, senior housing, assisted living

Types of Market Gleaning

  • Individual Vendor Gleaning – individual vendors are responsible for their own donations
  • Market Gleaning – the market appoints an individual to oversee the market’s donations
  • Customer Gleaning – the customers are given the option to purchase extra produce for donating

Record Keeping is Important

  • What to include?
  • Date of donation
  • Location of donation
  • Type of product donated
  • Amount of product donated (In some cases, you will need to weigh the product. Some donation locations may be equipped with scales and prepared to give you a receipt.)
  • Approximate value of the products donated