GleanSLO rescuing local produce to help feed people in need

Food Bank program harvesting fruits and vegetables

GleanSLO rescuing local produce to...

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. - As a gray cloudy morning gave way to a warm, blue sunny sky, volunteers worked the field at Talley Farms outside Arroyo Grande.

The group, which included mostly retirees, plus a college student, were all there performing a rescue operation of sorts.

Equipped with knives and plastic crates, the small group of about a dozen people were harvesting red butter lettuce for GleanSLO, a program with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.

"We harvest excess produce that otherwise would go to waste," said GleanSLO program manager Roxanne Sanders.

Food is collected at farms, orchards and private residences located throughout San Luis Obispo County.

"The food is always perfectly edible to eat," Sanders said. "It could be they already did one harvest and maybe didn't have enough time to do a second pass through or maybe it wasn't as visually pleasing, there's a lot of other reasons."

Sanders adds food could also be slightly blemished, perhaps too big or too small or surplus in size.

"Farmers really love it because it's a good reason to give back to their community and it's really easy for them because we come in, do all the work, we harvest and then take it back to the Food Bank," said Sanders.

Gleans are about two hours in length, are performed all year long, especially in summer, and harvest just about any produce item imaginable.

"I've done peppers and carrots, tomatoes, lettuce," said volunteer Ross Chenot. "I've done leaks, onions, avocados, oranges, different kinds of apples, lemons, limes."

Chenot, who has been volunteering for about three years, said donating time to the non-profit organization is something everyone can do.

"You don't have to be a super athlete" said Chenot. "I'm 68 and have back problems and knee problems and still you can come out here for two hours and glean and have a great experience of helping others."

He adds gleaning is an enjoyable experience where people can easily make new friends in a fun and comfortable atmosphere.

"We just talk the whole time," said Chenot. "Talking about trips that we're going on, recipes that we use that we use from some of the crops that we glean. Just a great group of people who want to give back."

Once harvested, the produce is taken to the Food Bank warehouse in San Luis Obispo and then quickly moved to any one of the dozens of distribution locations in the county.

"It's extremely powerful to harvest food that's going to be on somebody's table potentially tomorrow that otherwise wouldn't be able to buy," said Cal Poly student Rachel Rosenbloom. "Being able to be in the dirt, being able to be really hands-on with these vegetables that not only do I get to enjoy harvesting, but they get to go to somebody that needs them, that's extremely impactful. Fun for the volunteers and good for the Food Bank."

Food Bank is helping provide assitance to about 46,000 residents. The number represents about one in six people in the county.

"You may know them, but you many not know they're food insecure and so being able to help them even from far, it makes their life easier and better," said Rosenbloom.

For the past two years, GleanSLO has been the primary beneficiary of Wine, Waves & Beyond, a popular weekend lifestyle festival. It's an important partnership that helps out GleanSLO in several ways.

"It's our largest fundraiser and the funds go directly to the program so we can keep gleaning, keep a great staff and expand who we are able to reach," said Sanders.

Wine, Waves & Beyond is scheduled for June 2-4 in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo.

For more information on the event, visit

For more information on GleanSLO, visit

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