A note by program coordinator Emily Wilson

Whether at home, in the greater community, or on a national or global scale, knowledge and understanding are what inspire people to take action on behalf of what they believe. To see or participate in a broken system gives us purpose, and highlights opportunities for improvement of our world. This idea is such a core part of the GleanSLO program and its formation- understanding that we live in an area of such immense abundance, and yet we continue to see people around us struggle to gain regular access to fresh, nutritious food. In 2010, when a group of local women began to notice the amount of local produce simply left to rot, they took action to connect that bounty with those in need by organizing groups to harvest and donate local food. It’s a simple equation that can have a huge impact. 
Not only is GleanSLO able to bridge the gap between excess and hunger, but we are simultaneously able to educate people about our local food system, empowering them to take action. Whether it’s harvesting in a neighbor’s backyard, picking row crops at a commercial farm, or hosting a fruit drive at a school or business, the experience of getting to know your area is a powerful tool. 

This week, we wanted to highlight some information that continues to give us purpose 10 years after our formation. One great recent resource in illustrating the need for gleaning(and many other county-wide actions) locally is the SLO County Food Systems Atlas, an overview and analysis of our local food system written by Cal Poly professor Ellen Burke. Below are a few highlights from the atlas to illustrate why we continue to do what we do…

To illustrate the need for food rescue: “Approximately 18% of the material sent to landfills in California each year is food waste: scraps, spoilage, and uneaten items” and “1 in 6 SLO County residents face hunger and lack of food access.”

To illustrate the need for a focus on local food rescue, and encouraging residents to purchase food grown locally: “[SLO] County farmers produce 7.5 pounds of fresh produce per resident per day, yet less than 3% is consumed by county residents.”

And lastly, to illustrate the need for education of our community in regards to local agriculture: “like school gardens, all types of engagement with growing produce increases the knowledge base of the community at large, a key factor in social-ecological resilience.”

We hope the information in our newsletters inspires you to continue to support the work of GSLO and others improving our local food system and creating a better SLO for us all.