GleanSLO Interview with Food Bank Children’s Programs Manager Heather Donovan

GleanSLO Interview by Josh Ayers

GleanSLO staff is often asked how our gleaned produce is distributed. There are many answers to that question, which includes more than 100 monthly distributions county wide and direct distribution to Food Bank Partner Agencies. This month we wanted to focus on one unique type of distribution where gleaned produce is going out to our county’s hungry residents. We interviewed Food Bank Children’s Programs Manager Heather Donovan to give some insight on the Food Bank’s Children’s Farmer’s Market Program, which helps distribute our gleaned produce—on the same day as the harvest in some instances—to children at select county schools where 60 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced lunches. The program has been a great success and it’s a delight to hear stories from Heather about kids getting excited about the specialty crops we harvest such as beets and spaghetti squash. 

  • SalvadorTell us a little about your role and how you got started in the Food Bank Children’s Programs.

I am passionate about nutrition and believe in the importance of good nutrition starting at an early age. I was so excited to join the food bank team and especially as the Children’s Programs Manager. I oversee the food bank programs for 18 years and younger, which includes our after-school snack program, summer meals, summer breakfast bag, and children’s farmers market.

  • What is a Children’s Farmer’s Market and how many of them are there in San Luis Obispo County?

Every child leaves our farmers market with 10-15 lbs of fresh fruits and vegetables, but this program is also an interactive and enriching experience. At our market sites, the older children are the “vendors,” who sell the produce to the younger kids shopping at the market. Each child is given ten “food bank bucks” to purchase 8-12 different types of fruits and vegetables. The kids are picking and buying the produce by themselves, which gives a sense of ownership. This feeling of pride makes the kids excited to take the produce home to their families, cook with it, and eat it! Our nutrition education team comes to the markets to provide a tasting, recipe, and lesson, incorporating produce being provided at that particular market. We also play educational games, including the “mystery box,” where a child reaches their hand into the box and has to guess what fruit or vegetable is in the box without seeing it. We currently have 16 markets throughout the county,  with shoppers in pre-school to high school.

  • MaggieAre there other programs like this outside of SLO County? If so, where and how are they different?

Other food banks have markets for children, however with the kids as vendors, “food bank bucks,” nutrition education team, educational games, we have put our own unique twist on the children’s farmers market program!

  • How many children do these markets serve on a monthly basis? 

We have over 1,200 kids who participate in our children’s farmers market program each month.

  • How does GleanSLO produce fit into the Children’s Farmers’ Market Program?

Group MarketGleanSLO provides the more unusual produce for our markets that really gets the kids excited and asking questions! From different kinds of persimmons, bok choy, and spaghetti squash just to name a few, some of the kids are not accustomed to seeing these produce items in their homes. This allows us to educate the children on the unusual fruit or vegetable from how it was grown, how you prepare it, and most importantly letting the kids taste it. The kids go home with the fruit or vegetable they learned about and can then talk to their parents about it, opening up a conversation about fruits and vegetables.

  • Have there been any particular gleaned items that the children really enjoy or prefer? 

In the fall, we had Cinderella pumpkins, which were a huge hit! They were heavy for the kids to hold, but that did not stop anyone.

  • Snack TimeDo kids really get excited about gleaned beets and radishes?! 

The kids get especially excited about anything they haven’t seen before. Items like gleaned beets and radishes are something different. They kids want to learn more about the unusual produce item.


  • Why are these types of distributions important in our county or society?

It is important to introduce and educate children about the many different types of fruits and vegetables. We encourage kids shopping at the market to try new things and to take a little bit of everything home. Having conversations about the importance of eating a variety of fresh foods is important to start early on. Children who participate in our markets have shown an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, contributing to their overall health and well-being.

To learn more about this incredible program, visit:

GleanSLO Interview with Steering Committee member Susan McTaggart

GleanSLO Interview by Carolyn Eicher

I’m delighted to share this interview about Susan McTaggart, a dedicated gleaner who travels around the county to harvest from big farms and small backyards at least once per week. When I first met Susan, we gleaned pomegranates and persimmons from a neighborhood in SLO, and another time we met was when she was completing the Neighborhood Harvest Leader training, and the citrus glean continued, even when it started to rain! Susan is also a new member of our GleanSLO Steering Committee and has been a wonderful addition, asking thoughtful questions,  offering suggestions, and sharing her enthusiasm and wisdom. Thank you Susan, for all you offer to GleanSLO and our community!

Susan McTaggart

  • Please share your name, a few sentences about you, and your background.

My name is Susan McTaggart and I have lived on the Central Coast for about 30 years, having first discovered the area as a student at Cal Poly in the 70’s. I taught elementary school in Atascadero until 2014, when I retired and started gleaning.

  • When and how did you hear about GleanSLO? What interests you about the work we do?

In March or April of 2014, I heard about GleanSLO on the radio when one of the founders was being interviewed. I think GleanSLO is terrific for so many reasons: it helps people in need, it encourages a healthy diet, it saves food from being wasted, and it promotes community relationships. On a personal level it is a perfect fit for people who like being outdoors, gardening and meeting great people.

  • Has anything been surprising as you learn more about food access and hunger in our community?

It’s shocking to me that so many people in our community, and our country, are food-insecure.  With 45,000 people in our county needing assistance, it is a big task to meet that need.  Providing fresh produce is even more challenging than supplying shelf stable foods, but I feel it is vitally important as part of a healthy diet and as a way of promoting healthy eating habits. That is the role of GleanSLO.

  • Do you have a recipe using local prduce that you’d be willing to share with our GleanSLO community?

Here is an incredibly simple recipe that I love. I first ate it on a bike trip in Provence and came home hoping to replicate it.  Luckily, I found this recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Carrot Salad with Parsley and Mint

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint

Peel and grate the carrots.  Mix the lemon juice with 1/4 tsp. salt, then whisk in oil.  Toss with carrots, parsley and mint, then season with pepper.  Serve right away or cover and chill for an hour.


GleanSLO Interview with Lt Henry Gonzalez of Salvation Army San Luis Obispo

GleanSLO Interview by Carolyn Eicher

I am excited to share with our GleanSLO community some background about the collection of unsold produce that we receive each Thursday night from generous farmers at the San Luis Obispo County Farmers’ Market. In early 2012, our GleanSLO Steering Committee met with Peter Jankay, Administrator of the San Luis Obispo County Farmers’ Market Association. We envisioned a partnership that would involve a dedicated weekly commitment from GleanSLO staff and/or volunteers, a willingness from farmers to donate excess food that is not sold at the end of the market, and a nearby agency that would partner with us for the collection and distribution of the fresh produce. After many brainstorming sessions to work out logistics, our plan moved forward when in September 2012 we received a grant from the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation to develop and implement this program. Delighted to report that we have just celebrated our 3rd anniversary in September 2015 of this wonderful program! Through our joint efforts, 43,814 pounds of produce has been donated from farmers at the Thursday evening market.

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

I was happy to have a few moments on a Friday morning with Lt. Henry Gonzalez from The Salvation Army when produce from the Thursday market is distributed to their clientele.

  • Please tell us about who you are and what you do.

My name is Lt. Henry Gonzalez. I am the Corps Officer at The Salvation Army, San Luis Obispo Corps.  I grew up in Los Angeles.  I consider myself a city guy and have always enjoyed the perks that came with that; Disneyland, Museums, Laker Games, Hollywood, etc.  In 2013 I was commissioned as a Salvation Army Minister and was appointed to the beautiful and quiet town of San Luis Obispo.

  • We’d love to know about your previous work. Anything that inspires you to be involved and give back to the community?

Before becoming a Salvation Army Officer, I had a few different jobs.  From being self-employed to delivering medications to different doctor’s offices and hospitals to becoming a Sound Engineer/Technician for a few years.

 Since the age of 12, I was involved with The Salvation Army in Santa Ana, CA, through their summer camps, feeding the homeless programs, Sunday Open Air’s, etc.


Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

  • Can you share a personal story about being involved with GleanSLO and collecting fresh fruits and veggies at the market?

Being part of this Partnership with GleanSLO has been an amazing experience because it takes me back to my teen years of involvement with The Salvation Army in East Los Angeles.  At that time, they had a Partnership with the Los Angeles Food Bank who would donate canned goods, produce and cereal for us to give out to the East Los Angeles Community.  This is exactly what’s being done here through The Salvation Army thanks to the doors which have been opened by GleanSLO to serve our San Luis Obispo Community.

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

  • Anything you’ve learned about our local farmers who share with us each week?

The thing that I’ve learned from our local farmers is……They are Generous!




  • Can you describe the variety of food that we receive from the farmers at the market? How is this food distributed through The Salvation Army?

We receive Lettuce, Tomatoes, Squash, Cilantro, Zucchini, Potatoes, Apples, Nectarines and many other types of produce.  All this variety of food is distributed every Friday morning.  We have volunteers come in to wash any produce and sort before it is given to our San Luis Obispo Community Clientele.

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

  • Do you have any ideas about the future of GleanSLO and the vision for a healthy community? How can we improve our work and our reach?

 I’m aware that the GleanSLO Vision is to make the San Luis Obispo Community aware about healthy eating.  So far they have done a great job about it and will continue to do so.


  • Thank you so much Lt. Henry!


Photo by Carolyn Eicher

If you are interested in helping out as a GleanSLO volunteer at the market, please email us at or call (805) 835-3750. We are always looking for volunteers who can help out on Thursday evenings  from 7:45-9:00 pm.

We would like to thank Peter Jankay, Administrator, San Luis Obispo County Farmers’ Market Association, The SLO Downtown Association, the San Luis Obispo County Farmers’ Market Association and Diane Boyd, The Salvation Army, previous Lieutenants Patty and Juan Torres, current Lt Henry Gonzalez, the generous farmers who donate to us each week,  The California Conservation Corps and the countless volunteers who have helped us each Thursday night. We couldn’t do it without all of you!


Photos on Flickr from our Thursday Night Farmer’s Market Collection:

Interview with Aidan Munoz-Christian, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of SLO County


This summer, Aidan Munoz-Christian, a young leader at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of SLO county contacted GleanSLO about putting on a Fruit Drive with her Church. In the past, we’ve mostly worked with schools on the Fruit Drive program, so we loved the idea of expanding it to a Church. The UU Fellowship has been an incredible supporter of GleanSLO over the years. Aidan did a great job of engaging her congregation and educating others about hunger and food waste. We asked Aidan to tell us a little bit more about why she wanted to do a Fruit Drive and get involved with GleanSLO. Below is her interview.



Interview with Aidan Munoz-Christian

By Carolyn Eicher

Aidan's Fruit Drive Collection

Aidan’s Fruit Drive Collection

“Probably the most impactful lesson I’ve learned is that hunger is a solvable problem. The real problem is food waste and distribution, which is causing millions of people to go hungry.” – Aidan Munoz-Christian


My name is Aidan Muñoz-Christian and I have lived in San Luis Obispo for fourteen years, which is the majority of my life! I was born in Maryland and have also lived in New Mexico and Southern California, but the Central Coast has been my home for the most time. I graduated from San Luis Obispo High School last year and have taken a gap year to explore my interests, travel, and volunteer before heading off to college at Saint Mary’s College of California in the Bay Area.

“I am …motivated to give back from my place of privilege: I feel that it is my duty to serve and engage with those who have less than I do. Also, I am compelled to give back to this community which has nurtured me for the past decade and a half.”

I recently became more interested in food – in terms of where it comes from, how it gets to us, how it nourishes us, how to prepare it, and how it relates to other sectors of health and society – as part of a health and wellness lifestyle change I decided to make this year. Through this process, I have discovered I love to cook (I wouldn’t say I’m very good because I’m very new at it, but I’m learning)! It has also in part led to my work with GleanSLO. My other passions include music (both singing and listening to it), reading and writing, traveling, exercising, and learning. I love spending time with my friends, family, and pets, being outside, riding my horse, hiking, drinking tea and going on picnics!


  • When and how did you hear about GleanSLO? What interests you about the work we do? Would love a personal story or connection about what the fruit drive means to you, and why you decided to organize it?


I had been familiar with the name since about the middle of high school because someone I knew had volunteered with GleanSLO, but I didn’t completely understand what the organization does until I decided to register as a volunteer earlier this year. I have recently become interested, perplexed, and disturbed by food waste and how rampant it is in society today. Furthermore, I’m amazed and inspired by GleanSLO’s efforts to alleviate hunger in our community – which is closely tied to food waste – by making use of what nature has already provided.

The fruit drive is an incredible opportunity not only for me but for everybody involved in it, because it is a way of opening up a dialogue about food justice. My hope is that this in turn will lead to more awareness of these prevalent issues, which is the only way that change can gradually be effected.


I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Luis Obispo County and started this fruit drive as part of the Spiritual Activist Leadership Training I’m participating in, which is a program for young adult Unitarian Universalists seeking social justice. The fruit drive is my individual project, which is a major component of this program. This is where we choose an area of social justice that we feel passionate about – mine being food justice – and then pursue a project to connect our congregations with our community. This, of course, is where my work with GleanSLO comes in!


  • We’d love to know about the other work you’ve done through the UU or other community involvement. Anything that inspires you to be involved and give back to the community?


It has really been this year that I’ve become involved in the community and in matters of social justice. I wish I had started earlier, because there’s so much I want to do! I joined the Social Justice committee at the UU Fellowship, where they are currently working on issues of environmental justice, race equality, and income inequality, among others.


My faith inspires me to be involved and give back to the community, as a core component of Unitarian Universalism is social justice, fueled by the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I am also motivated to give back from my place of privilege: I feel that it is my duty to serve and engage with those who have less than I do. Also, I am compelled to give back to this community which has nurtured me for the past decade and a half. I have learned and grown so much here and it’s the least I can do to say thank you!


  • What did you learn from organizing this fruit drive? Has anything been surprising as you’ve learned about food access and hunger through this process?


I have learned a great deal from this experience. For starters, it’s made me realize just how much work goes into planning an event that from the outside may look simple, and it’s been a test of my leadership and organization skills. I’ve also discovered that I have a passion for food justice and this is something I hope to further pursue.


I am surprised by how many people have abundant produce in their yards! Over the span of two Sundays, we collected 205 pounds of fruits and veggies, and that was only from the people who donated in this congregation of less than 200 members! I can only imagine what the rest of the community is like!


Probably the most impactful lesson I’ve learned is that hunger is a solvable problem. The real problem is food waste and distribution, which is causing millions of people to go hungry. In the US alone, 40% of all food grown and produced is wasted, not to mention worldwide, where a third of all food produced goes to waste. This is a startling truth we must face. There is something all of us can be doing right here and now to eliminate this epidemic. It is reassuring to know that there are organizations like GleanSLO making strides to do this; creating new systems of connection where there were none before. If only the rest of the world would follow suit.


Any favorite fruit/veggie recipe or how you like to eat your local fruits and veggies? Resources, cooking or healthy recipe ideas?
Oh, where to begin! I knew this question would be a tough one, because I could go on and on. But I’ll try my best to keep it simple. First off, I am a huge fan of farmers’ markets, as are many people involved in GleanSLO. My family and I go every week and it is quite an event for us. We get nearly all of our produce at the markets and it’s always such an adventure to see what we can create from it. (I’m really excited for the San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Cookbook to come out!) It’s also so rewarding (and delicious!) to know that almost all of your meal was made from fresh, local fruits and veggies, and that you are not only consuming nutritious food but that you are supporting local farmers whom you know personally while you’re at it.


In all honesty, I actually hated vegetables until this year. When I decided to start eating healthier, I realized there was no way around vegetables. And I can tell you that I have learned to love them. So to all those vegetable haters out there; to all those picky kids, it is possible to change! The key is to find interesting ways to prepare them, which is something I’ve set my mind to this year. There are so many great recipes out there, and I’m constantly trying them out and looking for new ones. But I’ve also learned that cooking is a process of experimentation – it can be kind of intimidating at first to stand in your kitchen staring at a counter covered in veggies without any kind of written instructions to prepare them, but you become more fearless with practice (lots of trial and error…). I love whipping up stir fry, salads, wraps, pasta dishes, soups, frittatas, sautéing veggies for fajitas, roasting them in the oven, putting them out on the grill, and incorporating them into healthier spins of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. As for fruit, I’m basically addicted to it and will eat it anytime and anywhere, without much preparation. Below are some of my favorite simple and healthy ways to enjoy fresh produce.


California Salad


Mixed farmers’ market greens, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, garbanzo beans, roasted corn, and sliced almonds, dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.


Arugula Berry Salad


Arugula, spinach, sliced strawberries, blueberries, sliced Granny Smith apples, crumbled goat cheese, and walnuts, dressed with vinaigrette of choice.


Simple open-faced sandwich


Toasted whole grain bread, hummus, avocado, and sliced tomato, topped with microgreens.


Avocadoes are my absolute favorite, so I’m always looking for new ways to prepare and eat them. I’m currently enjoying halving them and baking them in the oven with an egg in the middle, then adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Also, they make a powerful, nutrient-dense smoothie when blended with a banana, plain Greek yogurt, orange juice, and a touch of ginger.


Finally, a great resource is MyFitnessPal. They have bottomless archives of healthy recipes packed with fruits and veggies, and some of my favorites have come from there. It’s an app, but they have a website ( and all recipes can be accessed online.


Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!

Welcome to Josh Ayers, our new GleanSLO Program Coordinator!

Interview by Carolyn Eicher

Josh Ayers, photo by Carolyn Eicher

Josh Ayers, photo by Carolyn Eicher


GleanSLO has grown and changed over the years and we are happy to welcome each new volunteer, farmer, neighborhood donor, community member and partner!

We are also grateful for the individuals who have become our dedicated and hardworking staff. As we transition and say goodbye to Jeanine Lacore, our enthusiastic coordinator over the past three years, we also welcome her replacement, Josh Ayers. Jeanine and Susan have gleaned and trained with Josh over the past month and have seamlessly transitioned to keep our gleans running smoothly during our busy season of stone fruit and large farm gleans that occur each week!

There are a lot of logistics that go on behind the scenes to pull off each and every farm glean, farmers’ market and neighborhood glean, and in addition there are numerous meetings, with visioning, networking, and brainstorming that happens with our Steering Committee, the Food Bank staff, community partners, statewide gleaning organizations and beyond. We have always found the right people to help continue the vision that we had when we first created our gleaning initiative for our county.  It is our hope that those of you that haven’t yet met Josh will introduce yourselves, share a bit about your experience with GleanSLO, and welcome him enthusiastically as we are.

Josh at a backyard lemon glean, photo by Carolyn Eicher

Josh at a backyard lemon glean, photo by Carolyn Eicher

- Welcome Josh! We are so excited to get to know you, and have the GleanSLO community find out about you and your background.  Please tell us about yourself.


I grew up in Bakersfield and would frequently visit my grandparents in the small town of Shafter, which was about 30 minutes north. I used to love the drive to and from their house because I got to watch the cycles of all the crops being grown and harvested.

In 2006 I transferred to Cal Poly from Bakersfield College and graduated in 2009 with a B.S. in Journalism. After graduating I accepted a job at a Santa Barbara-based software company. I lived in Santa Barbara for a year, before moving to Arroyo Grande, where my wife, daughter and I have planted indefinitely. I had held three different job titles at that company, the last being a senior editor for one of its own industry-related magazines, but quit at the end of last year to explore career and volunteer opportunities in the non-profit sector.

I have been an avid gardener and plant propagator (or sometimes a plant killer) since my early childhood and credit my parents and grandparents for giving me those gardening opportunities to learn to like vegetables (cherry tomatoes and French breakfast radishes are still regulars in my garden).

If I’m not gleaning or gardening, I’m probably in the kitchen planning or prepping the next meal for my wife and daughter. I love to cook, especially with homegrown or fresh produce. Outside of the home, I enjoy swimming, hiking, and fishing.

– When and how did you hear about GleanSLO?

Josh at his very first glean with GleanSLO. Photo courtesy Josh Ayers.

Josh volunteering at his very first glean with GleanSLO. Photo courtesy Josh Ayers.

I heard about GleanSLO in the fall of 2013 through the organization’s online listing for a program manager. At that time, I hadn’t had much experience in the non-profit sector, but decided to throw my resume into the arena to see what would happen. I was surprised by a quick call back, but I didn’t get the job at that time. Going through multiple interviews, including one with the GleanSLO steering committee was a great introduction to the GleanSLO program. After those interviews, I started noticing GleanSLO events and logos around the county and continued to follow the program’s growth until I was in a position to dedicate some of my time to gleaning.

My first volunteer glean was arugula at Talley Farms. I was so excited after that first glean that I went straight to Farm Supply and bought my own harvest knife. To this day, I’m still hooked on being out in the fields or climbing trees to get that last piece of fruit, but mostly, I enjoy being around the multitudes of volunteers that come out and share their time, stories, recipes and smiles.

–Do you have any ideas about the future of GleanSLO and the vision for a healthy community? How can we improve our work and our reach?

GleanSLO has already been so successful with its grassroots organization and organic growth, which would not be possible without its incredible base of dedicated volunteers. I want to help GleanSLO continue that growth in a way that will allow it to be true to its mission, vision and values without it, as my grandfather would say, “getting too big for its britches.”

Having said that, I believe there is still a large network of resources and partnerships that we haven’t tapped into that could help our program grow and help to build a healthier community.

Josh gardening at home with his daughter. Photo courtesy Josh Ayers.

Josh gardening at home with his daughter. Photo courtesy Josh Ayers.

I would love to see our program grow in a way that allows us to get at-risk youth involved in fun and meaningful community service, or at the least, provide them an opportunity to garner information about food systems, food waste and the abundant agricultural jobscape that we have in our county.

I would also like to see elected officials in SLO County embrace California Assembly Bill 551, which allows for counties or counties and cities to establish urban agriculture incentive zones, or in other words, areas where individual properties (think parking lots or vacant investor properties) that can be zoned as “urban agriculture preserves” where small-scale farming can take place.

Not only could this potentially expand our gleaning opportunities, but it could also allow for greater community involvement in the local food production network, as well as increase farming opportunities for potential growers who otherwise would not have access to large sections of land. These zones have already been created in other parts of the state and if they were to be created here, I would love to eventually see a volunteer-run GleanSLO urban farm or garden that we could harvest from.

–Do you have any favorite recipes to share, or how you like to eat/prepare your veggies? We love to find out about healthy tips and ideas to share with our GleanSLO community.

I have too many favorite recipes to list! Most of those recipes hinge on memories of eating them with close friends or family (or both), and each one of them tend to mark certain eras of my life of when I first tried or was shown a way to prepare a fruit or vegetable that I had not liked up to that point in time.

As for how I like to eat my veggies—I prefer to use my mouth. Seriously though, how I eat them depends on the type of vegetable and who might be eating them with me. Ten years ago kale was just a garnish to me. Then about five years ago, my wife, Kate, made a kale salad from a recipe that she got from her sister, where she massaged it with avocado, salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice and sesame oil and then added in strawberries, sunflower seeds and goat cheese.  If Kate and I are eating kale, it’s pretty much certain that we will be having some variation of that salad. If it’s just me eating kale, I like to braise it Southern Style, in broth with apple cider vinegar, onions, and garlic.

Resources for cooking are everywhere. I prefer word-of mouth recipes from friends, coworkers and family members and particularly recipes without strict instructions, as it allows some flexibility for experimentation and personalization.

To this day, the only gleaned item that really gets me still is loquats. I first tried one from a local San Luis Obispo tree a few years ago.  They are so delicious as-is, but I haven’t really had the opportunity to expand past that.  If I do end up taking a stab at preparing a dish with them, I will probably go in the direction of preserves or jam, or try to use them as a sweet and tart component of a basting sauce for poultry or fish. I imagine they could be incorporated into salsa as well.


We hope you get a chance to meet Josh in person soon, at a glean or out and about around Arroyo Grande or San Luis Obispo. Josh is your go-to guy for  registering your tree, scheduling a glean or signing up to volunteer. Josh can be reached at or 805-235-1180.




Farewell Jeanine, thanks for being you!

Jeanine Lacore

Jeanine Lacore

On June 19, we said goodbye and good luck to our dedicated Program Coordinator of three years, Jeanine Lacore. Jeanine has played a huge role in shaping GleanSLO into the successful (and highly organized) program it is today! Jeanine is setting off to travel across the country in her pickup truck and while we will miss her dearly, we couldn’t be more excited for her new adventures. We feel fortunate to have had the chance to work with her and be inspired by her passion for all things food and community. Before she hit the road, we asked Jeanine to reflect on her time with GleanSLO for our blog.


After 3 years with GleanSLO I’m having a hard time summing up this experience without going off in a million directions. Where do I begin?! I suppose some of my earliest memories in life shaped my passion for food justice. My mom and dad raised a family of seven children on one working-class income. As a child I remember going to a church pantry and bringing home a couple bags of food that were quickly consumed by me and my siblings. I don’t ever remember being hunger, but I’m sure that my parents worried about how to feed us all. Now that I’m an adult I understand the issue of “hunger” and how it affects a large percentage of our population. I can sympathize with people going through the stress of having to choose between paying for a tank of gas or a decent meal. I’ve also come to realize that it’s not always about access to food, but more of an issue of access to healthy food.

GleanSLO Steering Committee gathered to honor Jeanine before her last day.

GleanSLO Steering Committee gathered to honor Jeanine before her last day.

I never would have imagined I’d find such an ideal job. As the Program Coordinator of GleanSLO I’ve had the opportunity to explore so many beautiful nooks and crannies around San Luis Obispo County while tasting a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and have had the chance to glean next to some of the most inspiring, generous and thoughtful people in my life. One of my favorite memories includes picking apples in See Canyon during my first year as an AmeriCorps VIP member. I remember walking down rows and rows of trees so loaded the branches sagged toward the ground waiting for the weight to be relieved. With over 20 heirloom varieties of apples my taste buds marveled at nature’s bounty and to this day I will always be most fond of the Gold Rush variety!

Jeanine was instrumental in developing GleanSLO's School Fruit Drive program.

Jeanine was instrumental in developing GleanSLO’s School Fruit Drive program.

This job (if you can even call it that!) has had the perfect combination of working outside, getting my hands dirty, using my detail-oriented tendencies, and having the chance to hear so many interesting stories from people who share my love for food and giving. At this point in life, I’m fortunate to be in a stable position surrounded by passionate people who also want to create a more just and caring world through the act of harvesting and sharing fresh fruits and vegetables. We all need to eat and food becomes the common denominator that divides the gaps between age, culture, gender, ethnic background, class, and so forth. There’s nothing more heart-warming than to see a group of volunteers out in a field or harvesting among the fruit trees rolling their sleeves up, sharing their recipes, and forming unexpected friendships that last far beyond a glean. In fact, I’ve found a handful of best friends and lifetime mentors along the way!

Stephanie Jeanine and Tom

Stephanie Buresh (MCP High School), Jeanine, and Tom Ikeda, farmer

I’m proud to have been part of the GleanSLO community and the SLO County Food Bank’s efforts to provide our neighbors in need with the nutritionally-dense food that everyone deserves. I believe I’ve experienced the true meaning of community—where there is a spirit of comradery and a desire to selflessly help one another through the simple act of sharing. Thanks to all who have been a part of this chapter in my life. These memories will resonate within me for decades to come, and no matter where I end up I will always be a gleaner at heart!

Thank you Jeanine, we wish you all the best!

Interview with Christine Nelson, Health Education Specialist with UCCE

Interview with Christine Nelson, Health Education Specialist, UC Cooperative Extension San Luis Obispo County by Carolyn Eicher.


So happy to interview you, Christine! Please tell us about yourself.

Local farmers, fresh produce, homemade strawberry jam, and happy kids are the words that

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

describe my position as Health Education Specialist for the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE). My name is Christine Nelson, and I have the privilege to work with my community at the grass-roots level to help form healthy communities as well as to better our local food system through extending research-based knowledge. Many of our programs tailor to the local needs of our community; for example, the renewal of our Master Food Preserver Program was established to educate local residents on safe home food preservation practices due to the high demand of county interest. (GleanSLO and the Food Bank were also an integral part to get this program revitalized.) We also provide nutrition education programs in schools through the Harvest of the Month program, where we work with local farmers to supply produce, so kids can taste seasonal fruits and vegetables. I can say without a doubt, that I truly love and enjoy my line of work – working with numerous community partners and dedicated volunteers, our programs continue to thrive with the help of these amazing people.

What is your connection to GleanSLO and the Food Bank?

Back to our Roots - Food Preservation

Photo by Jessica Sofranko

In 2013, we partnered with the Food Bank for a USDA Community Food Project Grant, which has resulted in a strong and devoted collaboration with GleanSLO. Together, we have been able to educate and inspire our community on ways they can preserve their rescued produce. I can still remember sitting down with Carolyn Eicher, former GleanSLO manager, in 2012 and brainstorming ideas of how GleanSLO and the UCCE could provide preservation classes to our SLO county community. We discussed the resurgence of food preservation occurring in our community and how the renewal of UCCE Master Food Preserver Program could play a vital role in reestablishing this lost art. Three years later, and with the tremendous help of GleanSLO and volunteers, our discussions and dreams have come alive. We have 13 certified Master Food Preservers (MFPs) for our county. Over a two-year span, they have conducted 13 food bank preservation demonstrations to help recipients preserve their gleaned produce, as well as providing multiple preservation classes to the general public. For every food demonstration, GleanSLO supplies our produce, which enables our MFPs to use fresh and local produce for their demonstrations. It has been a joy to work with every GleanSLO team member to help our community utilize rescued produce in various ways, either by making strawberry jam or by freezing your citrus juice, to ultimately build a local sustainable food system.


When did you first hear about GleanSLO?  and what do you like about GleanSLO? 

The first time that I heard about GleanSLO was when I met Carolyn Eicher, months after starting with the UCCE. She was the one who educated me about this program and the future possibilities of collaboration, and we have been a collaborator ever since. I was captivated and in disbelief, when she shared about the thousands upon thousands of pounds of food wasted in our county, especially when we have hundreds of families suffering from hunger and food insecurity everyday. However, she then told me how GleanSLO salvages local fruits and vegetables, which then goes to feed those families. Again, I was gripped with this paradox and wanted myself and the UCCE to be a part of this amazing program. This conversation is what began the beautiful partnership between the UCCE and GleanSLO.


If I had one word to sum-up GleanSLO, it would be “hope.” GleanSLO provides hope to the farmer, the families, and the community. They rescue food, give to families in need, which impacts the community as a whole. I absolutely love GleanSLO and the heart they have to truly serve our community – Thank You.


Do you have any ideas for us about the future of GleanSLO and the vision for a healthy community?


The opportunities for GleanSLO are endless. From seeing them grow over the years, their drive and purpose will only guide them to go further. Their impact is already evident within the community, and it will only continue to gain momentum as people become more aware of their services and want to become a part of this incredible movement to help build a healthy community.


Health Educators at work

Photo by Christine Nelson

I would love to see more schools involved with GleanSLO. When children are provided hands-on experience, they are creating moments of learning that will forever be with them. It would be an amazing component of our Harvest of the Month program, if some of the kids were able to glean at the farm that was donating to their school, so they could see first hand their local food system at its best. I look forward to the years to come as our partnership continues to bloom as we strive to create a healthy community.



Interview with Chef Dave Schmit

Interview and photos by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Living on the Central Coast, Chef Dave Schmit enjoys being surrounded by fields and farms and getting to know farmers who grow all kinds of varieties of fresh produce. Dave, originally from Minnesota, and trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, has over 15 years of experience cooking at some of the finest restaurants including the Brentwood Country Club, Hotel Bel Air and The Beverly Hills Hotel. He has cooked for celebrities including Oprah, Robert Redford, Nancy Reagan and Michael Jackson among many others.  Dave and his wife Dana visited the Central Coast from Los Angeles numerous times on vacations, and jumped at the chance to move here in 2012 with Dana’s job at Rosetta.


In 2012 he decided to take a different turn in his work and applied for a part-time position as chef for the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter through CAPSLO (The Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County), cooking dinners for 100. To prep for the meals, Dave shops weekly at the Food Bank’s Oceano warehouse, selecting fresh ingredients, some of it donated and rescued by GleanSLO, all the while thinking of the nutritional needs of the clients.


Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

In his role as shelter cook, he commonly uses a “flash/scratch” method which combines whole foods and large amounts of fresh produce with already prepared foods. Dave makes a variety of meals, both vegetarian and with meat, always trying to maximize the use of rescued and donated produce. During one of the interviews at the commercial kitchen where he works, I talked with Dave as he washed, prepped, chopped and stirred up a pot of lentil soup in a 64-quart pot with the same effort as someone making a meal for a family of four. Anyone who sees him in action and listens to him talk quickly grasps how talented he is, and how lucky we are to have him in our county.


“…whether for fine dining or the shelter, he said his focus is the same, on people enjoying food.”

GleanSLO manager Susan Singley asked Dave about the differences in cooking for the shelter compared to fine restaurants, and what he misses from his former positions. He shared that it’s the support and camaraderie from a team. The shelter cooking, however, is a one-person operation. But whether for fine dining or the shelter, he said his focus is the same, on people enjoying food. He likes the challenge of the shelter job as he comes up with new meals inspired by the variety and fresh produce available at the warehouse. He cooks intuitively, is well versed about food and can talk extensively about “food anthropology.”


Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Dave shared that he wishes people would see the complexity of living here with the abundance of food grown in our rich agricultural area and the importance of taking care of and feeding people in need. He would like to see more effort placed on better nutrition for the needy and awareness that more nutrient-dense food could help reduce health problems among them. He predicts that as resources diminish, there could be increasing demand for services and the importance of considering the needs of all people in our community.


Grilled Baby Leek Ravioli, Carrot Romesco Sauce, Cyprus Grove Chevre created by Chef Dave

Grilled Baby Leek Ravioli, Carrot Romesco Sauce, Cyprus Grove Chevre created by Chef Dave for the Winemaker Dinner at Wine, Waves & Beyond












Along with his part-time job for CAPSLO, Chef Dave caters private events, weddings, and special functions.  He will be a featured Chef in the Wine, Waves & Beyond Winemaker’s Dinner on May 2 to benefit GleanSLO. He can be reached at


Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter

Welcome Susan Singley, our new GleanSLO Program Manager

Interview and Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Welcome Susan! Please tell us about yourself and your background:_MG_8803

My name is Susan Singley and I am incredibly happy to be the new Program Manager for GleanSLO! I recently relocated to SLO County from Fort Collins, Colorado. Simply put, my passions are community and food! I have had many incredible opportunities to work, learn and live in great places, with great people, and couldn’t be happier to have landed in San Luis Obispo County.

Most recently, I was working for a Food Bank, handling local food donations (including farms, gardens and gleanings) at the Food Bank for Larimer County.  I have a Master’s in Sociology from Colorado State University and did my undergraduate work in Sociology and Psychology at California University of Pennsylvania (It’s in a little town called California, PA, which was a Pittsburgh-area steel boom town, no relation to the UC or CSU system!).

When and how did you hear about GleanSLO?  What interests you about the work we do?

I learned about GleanSLO by accident!  I was researching the Food Banks in the Central Coast and reading more about the work they do, just to get a feel for where I might fit if I moved here.  When I found out about GleanSLO and the SLO Food Bank, and after reading the mission and vision I said out loud, “That is exactly what I want to be doing!”  The Program Manager position was not posted at the time, but when I checked back a couple weeks later, it was, and I sent out my resume and cover letter the next day. I’m really attracted to the gleaning movement because of all the needs that it meets for the community. Gleaning meets immediate food needs for those struggling to make ends meet for their families.  But that is just the beginning.  It also meets needs for people who want to help out and get connected to the land and just help out in some way – human beings have a strong need to feel deeply connected to the earth and to each other. And the act of gleaning is a very fulfilling for people who do it.  Gleaning also meets needs for farmers and backyard growers who invested time and resources into the food they grew.

Every grower I’ve ever met has one thing in common – they want to see their food eaten and not have their efforts go to waste!

The fact that the food is there – it’s being grown and resources are being invested in it – is incredibly motivating to me.  I believe that it is unacceptable that thousands of people (1 in 6 people in SLO County) struggle to put food on the table, while an estimated 58 million pounds of food goes unharvested.

Please tell us about the work you did in your last job. Anything that you hope to incorporate into your position at GleanSLO?

The deeper issues of poverty and inequality are complex, but there is one thing I have been convinced of since starting this work: I believe that hunger is a solvable problem.  Communities can come together to help meet needs of our most vulnerable populations, just by gathering the food that is already out there.

My last job involved working with all of the Food Bank for Larimer County’s local food donors – retail/grocery stores, food manufacturers, as well as farms, farmers markets and backyard gardeners.  I had been working really hard to build relationships between growers and backyard gardeners with that Food Bank, and part of the impact of that was helping change the community’s perspective on what a Food Bank does.  There is still sometimes an outdated idea that a Food Bank is a musty old food pantry full of outdated cans!  Modern Food Banks are amazing fresh food rescue organizations with a lot of logistical expertise!  Food Banks across the country have worked incredibly hard to build their own capacity and that of partner agencies to distribute fresh produce, dairy, meat and other healthy, nourishing foods.  The push for fresh food in Food Banks is driven by respect for the needs of our local families. If we really want to help, we need to provide them the best food possible to help nourish their lives.

I love helping growers and gardeners realize that they are making a real difference for people in need.

Do you have any ideas about the future of GleanSLO and the vision for a healthy community? How can we improve our work and our reach?

There is so much potential for GleanSLO. The founders, Steering Committee, staff and volunteers have done an incredible job of building a strong and sustainable program.  I’m so impressed with everyone I’ve met here!  I see the potential for community connections increasing as we see where the greatest needs are and how we can keep our program grassroots and flexible enough to see what the needs are and how to meet them. I definitely think there are more opportunities to partner with farms and do farm gleans more often, so I’ll be looking into how we can keep making those connections. I think our Neighborhood Harvest Leader program is a great way to empower our volunteers and expand our reach, and hope to see us training more harvest leaders as well. I think it’s important to take time to grow thoughtfully so I will be taking a lot of time to get settled in and find out where the community feels we need to focus next.

Will you share one of your favorite recipes?

I’m a huge fan of cooking in large batches (often over the weekend) and saving time on weeknights when I have less time to cook. I love making simple dishes like sautéed greens and roasted roots.  When I’m looking for new ideas, I love and

Carrots are one of my favorite foods, and the recipe below is one of my favorite ways to make them if I’m feeling like making something special. This is a dip/spread that I loved buying from the deli at the Fort Collins Food Cooperative. My friend Adam was also a huge fan and he asked the co-op for their recipe, so here it is:

Spicy Thai Carrot Insanity

First, shred about 1.5 pounds of carrots in a food processor and set aside.

Then mix up the following ingredients in the food processor:

2 cups peanut butter
1 cup peanuts
1 little jar of red curry paste
¼ cup (or to taste) tamari
¼  cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup organic coconut milk
2 cloves garlic mashed up
About an inch of ginger, mashed up with the garlic in the food processor
¼ c dried basil
Then add:

1 small bunch of scallions, sliced thin
1-2 colored bell peppers, chopped
The pre-shredded carrots from above
Mix one more time in food processor and add whatever you need to get it to a texture you like.  Enjoy in sandwiches, as a dip, with crackers, or by the spoonful!

Hand picked oranges at a Senior Farmers’ Market

Interviews and photos by Carolyn Eicher. 

Our GleanSLO interview this month features two residents in San Luis Obispo from Judson Terrace Homes which provides affordable housing for seniors 62 years and older. The Food Bank’s “Free Farmers’ Market Style” distribution is being held in the courtyard of Judson Terrace on a monthly basis since September of 2014.

photo by JenMost seniors are living on a fixed income and find it difficult to adjust to the ever increasing cost of living. Low income seniors comprise 20% of the Food Bank’s consumers. Senior farmers’ markets will help increase access to nutritious food to keep the fastest growing demographic in our community healthy and strong.

The day of our interviews, gleaned navel oranges from a local property in Arroyo Grande were being distributed, only 4 days after the glean, along with bunches of spinach, broccoli, onions, potatoes, carrots and more. Judson Terrace residents gathered and perused the tables of assorted produce, loading bags and push carts with the fruit and vegetables of their choice. Volunteers helping at the farmers’ market distribution enjoyed telling the story of the gleaned oranges and recipients gladly bagged oranges, hand picked, just for them.


“I like the variety of produce offered and think the program is excellent.” ~Paul

Paul, pictured here, shared his enthusiasm for the produce he receives from the monthly distributions which often includes local produce from GleanSLO. He particularly enjoys local, and preferably organic produce. During the interview, Paul shared his interests in healthy food and used the term, “health nut” to describe himself, as he takes pride in being healthy and physically active and eating well.



Maria has also been receiving food distributions from the Food Bank and enjoys cooking for herself and her husband as well as other residents at Judson Terrace. Maria frequently makes soup from the produce she receives and shares often with ill residents or those who may not be able to make their own meals or get out easily on their own.

The farmers’ market style distributions are the SLO Food Bank’s fastest growing model to distribute fresh produce. The farmers’ markets have been extremely successful, offering a wide range of produce and the option for consumers to choose which items they prefer.


Check out the Food Bank website to find a food distribution near you or to learn more about the Farmers’ Market Distributions.