About Gleaning Cornwall

Gleaning Cornwall came about after Holly Whitelaw watched Cornwall with Simon Reeves, which highlighted the often unseen poverty in the county and featured the work of a foodbank in Camborne run by Don and Jen. One of the largest foodbanks in the country, it highlight the widening divide between rich and poor in the county, the impact of covid on the tourism trade  and how malnourishment , not seen in the county for decades is now becoming evident in some of the people approaching the foodbank  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RBlU84t4kI

Gleaning Cornwall is a growing network of volunteer gleaners (harvesters) and drivers who are salvaging produce from farms and growers and distribute it to foodbanks, soup kitchens and charities that feed those most in need. It looks to support the incredible work already happening in this county to solve this key issue and that of food wasted on farms in Cornwall and food poverty.

Farmers currently suffer from incredibly tight margins as we pay relatively little for our food in the UK. Sometimes it is uneconomic to harvest all the vegetables or fruit, there may be a glut, the market might change and some are just not up to supermarket standards being wonky, too big or too small. Also, farmers have to ensure they have enough produce and have to over produce in case of pest, disease, flooding or drought. After all, farming is not an exact science! 

Our cornish gleaners plan to harvest surplus food or pick-up wonky produce and deliver this to food banks and community kitchens. In doing so they are bringing an age-old practice to avoid waste into the 21st century.

Simon Reeves, food bank

Gleaning, a term dating back to the bible was a right of the poor up to the late 18th century, under common law. It is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.

The practice has a rich history and is deeply connected to feeding those that did not have access to their own land (and therefore could not grow food for themselves). As the UK moves further away from knowing where its food is grown, gleaning brings people back to the land.

The COVID pandemic has shown us many problems that were already here and deepened inequalities further. Britain, which is the world’s fifth-largest economy has an estimated 14 million people (including four million children) living in poverty. The work of Marcus Rashford has shown how desperately families rely on free school meals and how fragile relying on this government to support people is. In Cornwall local heroes such as Don Gardener have done incredible work to support the people of Camborne, Pool and Redruth. However, he said there was a 30 per cent increase in demand during the summer holidays (2020) and they were serving “750 meals in just one hour.” The problem is clear.

It’s a win, win operation. Farmers reduce waste and people suffering with lack of fresh, healthy food get some. There has been at least one local case of malnutrition recently here, as food banks often suffer from a lack of fresh produce. Gleaning is also a fun, sociable, rewarding and an outdoor workout which can be carried out, even under Covid restrictions. All teams are fully insured, risk assessed and trained.

Their vision is for a safe future where no one goes hungry and food waste no longer exists; in the meantime their aim is to make a substantial impact at reducing food waste in Cornwall, get fresh fruit and veg to services feeding those most in need, getting more people learning about where their food comes from and the need for good nutrition while also learning healthy, tasty, nutritious recipes. With the support of much valued volunteers, who giving their time harvesting, packing and delivering veg across the county, gleaning offers a way for communities to come together, support physical health, meet new people, develop lasting friendships, increase happiness and better your mental health while providing a vital service.

What is needed to make this project a success? You reading this! We are a tiny team looking for;

– Farmers with surplus, unharvested, downgraded, unsold, rejected or unsold food

– Volunteer gleaners and two more coordinators 

– Community organisations looking for gleaned goods

– Tools and equipment

– Sponsorship

– Funding opportunities

How to reach us;

Sign up HERE

FaceBook group HERE

Email: gleaningcornwall@gmail.com

Phone Holly on 07747 436791

Who is already part of the network?

Quote from farmer

“Every year on farms across the country large quantities of vegetables and produce go to waste because they are not economic to harvest or because they are irregular shapes and sizes which shops don’t want. Most farmers like ourselves don’t like to see good food go to waste so are happy for people to glean. It would be brilliant if there was an easy way of putting farmers in touch with people and organisations who can make good use of this produce.” 

Phil, Trowan Farm

Quote from a coordinator-

“Gleaning is a wonderful way for us to supplement the food supplies that we share with the community and our volunteers really enjoy the chance to go out and pick fruit and veg on different farms.  We’ve collected loads of apples from a garden where 100’s of apples would otherwise have simply rotted on the ground and collected bag loads of greens from a farm after the supermarkets had cropped. Besides giving this away at our foodshare collections it has also enabled us to have some wonderful foodshare events where we’ve all cooked up and enjoyed hot food, apple juice and mulled cider. Sharing food really brings people together in a lovely way. “ Elise – St Ives Community Foodshare

Quote from regen food –

A third of our food gets wasted, some of it at farm and processing level. This isn’t just a waste of food but also fuel, soil, fertilisers, pesticides, manpower and carbon! It’s not the farmers fault but it makes sense to get some of this food to those in need. We don’t just have food poverty but confirmed malnutrition, as families continue to struggle to both feed and keep warm. We have a small amount of Lottery funding to buy some equipment and insurance and I am hoping to get more funding so we can pay coordinators for their time and all for transport costs into the future.

Let’s make common sense -common practice! (-: 

We are so grateful for the funding received from Feedback Global, Feeding Britain, The National Lottery and Live West, which has enabled us to do this.


Holly – Regenerative Food and Farming – Cornwall Gleaning Network

Picture of Holly
Feeding Britain colour logo
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