Gleaning and the Breadbasket
The Breadbasket is rooted in the principle of reducing food waste by matching surplus food with people who need that support. One way to accomplish this is through a practice called “gleaning.” Gleaning refers to gathering things that have been left behind and is a natural fit in Kansas with our agricultural foundations. In the traditional sense, we think of leftover grain or other produce being gleaned from the fields after a harvest. This concept translates easily to fresh and shelf-stable foods being gathered from local grocers, then evaluated and sorted, and ultimately being offered to people who could use those resources.
Gleaning was foundational to the Breadbasket and remains a crucial part of the work we do each week. Bright and early every morning, Monday to Friday, two crews of volunteers arrive at our doors. They trade their cars for one of our trucks and hit the road. We have an east route and a west route, dividing the town and the work. The volunteers go to Dillons (both locations), Hy Vee, Wal-Mart, Aldi, Target, Short Stop, and Starbucks during the week. The frequency of stops varies depending on the store, but through the course of a week we will receive fresh foods (fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats) that still have life left but are being replaced in the stores with their new shipments, shelf-stable foods with damaged external packaging (that box of cereal or crackers that doesn’t want to stay closed), surplus items of all types (leftover holiday candy and foods have to go somewhere), and anything else that our friends in the grocery stores think we might be able to use. These deliveries provide variety and important nutrition to our guests.
The gleaning practice at the Breadbasket expanded in the summer of 2022 with our partnership with the Flint Hills Food Recovery program. Their mission is to rescue nutritious foods from ending up in landfills and to nourish our neighbors. The Food Recovery program matches food producers with receiving groups who can safely store and distribute foods that they will not or cannot move through market. If you go to the Farmers Market on a Saturday, you might see someone with a wagon walking through right around 1 p.m. That’s a Food Recovery volunteer! They make their way through the market and collect food that the vendors have chosen to donate, perhaps because they have an abundance of a particular item or know that it will go bad before they have a chance to offer it for sale again. The volunteer then brings the food to the Breadbasket where it is weighed and stored until we open again on Monday. Greens, cucumbers, watermelon, okra, corn, tomatoes, and many other nutritious foods have been shared here at 905 Yuma Street.
Just as important as the fresh foods are the stories that are told as guests share favorite memories of eating these foods with their families. Recipes and cooking tips are exchanged. Laughter and stories are told. Community happens over food. Thanks for joining us in this community and letting us share our story with you.
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