Gleaning in the 21st Century: Urban food recovery and community food security in Ontario, Canada
Historic gleaning activities in Europe took place in farmers’ fields where gleaners could collect the leftovers of the harvest. One of the primary motivations for modern gleaning in Canadian cities is to donate fresh food to local organizations such as food banks. As there is currently little research in this area, this study aims to explore how gleaning initiatives contribute to community food security. The study is based on interviews and surveys with volunteers from several gleaning organizations in Ontario, combined with the Dietitians of Canada’s Food Security Continuum (FSC) as a framework for analysis. Findings include that gleaning contributes to all three stages of the FCS: initial food systems change, food systems in transition, and food systems redesign for sustainability. Respondents felt that while the amount of food harvested could be scaled up, there were benefits that augmented community food security, such as increased food literacy, food awareness, community cohesiveness, and a fresh food supply. Overall, this study improves our understanding of how gleaning initiatives can contribute to community food security. With better ongoing support from the community and on the policy agenda, such projects could further enhance their impacts.