Food Salvage

Special Note** food salvage is a term often used as an umbrella term to express food recovery initiatives but in this instance, it represents a specific type of food recovery where food is literally abandoned for a realm of reason – usually by tractor trailers. This is a type of food recovery can result in access to many types of products but cannot be planned for and may, depending on the product, need to be collected and distributed immediately. If this program is initiated it is helpful to have a group with flexible availability volunteers properly trained in food safety. Not a family friendly event but an efficient way to recover produce. Overview: Truck driver transporting produce and grocery goods may have all or part of their shipment denied for a variety of reasons including the below listed

  • Product is too close to the expiration date
  • Tractor trailer is overweight
  • Product packaging is damaged or “out of date”
  • Product is refused for a lack of warehouse or shelf space

When the trucker has to trash all or part of the shipment the trucker has two choices that is usually made by their management. These choices are 1) take it back to the warehouse 2) trash it at the nearest truck stop dumpster. When the latter is the case, provide truckers with an opportunity to reach out to a gleaning/food recovery network. The biggest challenge for this type of food recovery is connecting with potential donors. The most success we have had is through posting signage on or around a dumpster, connecting with truck stop ministers and even the management of the popular truck stop. The last one is especially advantageous if the produce requires refrigeration – the truck stop may be able to hold it in their walk-in freezer until your team arrives. Gleaning Etiquette and Safety: Truck stops can have several hazards for volunteers, even though this form recovery is quick and straightforward, adherence of safety rules is paramount. Specific rules to follow when in a salvaging food include:

No pets are allowed

  • Volunteers must stay in the designated area assigned by the gleaning coordinator
  • Bathroom use except in designated facilities is prohibited. Hands must be washed prior to returning. Wastewater is to be collected if applicable.
  • Leave no trace. All trash is to be collected.
  • When collecting salvage food inspect the product to ensure all food safety protocols are followed. If a package is opened or product is touching the ground, trash that product.
  • Verify any containers or transportation beds have been cleaned prior to produce contact
  • Clean tools before and after gleaning, collect wastewater if washing on site.

Materials Needed: Very little is needed to salvage food. Given the traffic that can exist at truck stops; it is recommend to wear safety vests. Keeping a portable bin with all materials needed for gleaning, as well as a first-aid kit and organization brochures and cards, will help to keep materials organized and portable. This should be stored in the truck at the field for easy access. See “Field Gleaning Checklist” for a comprehensive list.

Transportation: There truck and/or trailer should be available to load product and a designated driver to maneuver it the docking area.

Data Recording: It is essential for your group to record all pounds gleaned. Farmers will need to know what kind of produce was collected and how much for their tax purposes. Keep track of different produce separately. If you plan on donating to several agencies after a glean, accurately track how many pounds went to each agency.

Measuring produce can be done in three ways:

  1. Donate all gathered produce to a food bank. They typically have scales and give you an accurate weight upon receiving the donation.
  2. Bring a scale to the field. This can be a digital bathroom scale that shows pounds to the .1 pound. Have volunteers pick produce into the same type of bin, box, or bucket and keep track of how many are collected. Make an estimate of the weight: number of bins/boxes/buckets collected X the weight of a full bins/boxes/buckets. You can always weigh each bin, box, or bucket individually and add it all up at the end of the event.
  3. Use a box that is appropriate for the type of produce you are collecting (See “Produce Conversions”) and estimate how many boxes would fit into the bed of a truck or a trailer. This can be done by simple math: how many boxes across (width) X how many boxes deep (length) X how many boxes high (height). Based on how full the bed or trailer is with produce, you can estimate the pounds.

Society of St. Andrew, Georgia Gleaning Network opened in Tifton in 2007. Tifton is a southwest Georgia town with a population of about 20,000 citizens but rich with crop farmers and central to rural Georgia. Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) covers a gleaning operation for the state of Georgia, overseen by the Program Coordinator. The state currently has one Hunger Advocate based in Cleveland, Georgia, covering the mountain region in North Georgia. The focus area of SoSA’s work, south rural Georgia, presents several challenges including transportation for volunteers, recipients, and aging populations, a lack of economic development in small communities, limited access to the internet, lack of access to fresh produce, and racially divided communities. Georgia ranks ninth in the nation when it comes to senior food insecurity, and the overall food insecurity for the state was 15.1 percent in 2016. As of November 2017, the Georgia Gleaning Network has collected 1.3 million pounds of produce that have been distributed to community agencies throughout the state.

Program Description

The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) is a domestic faith-based non-profit, focused on hunger-relief and food advocacy, with the Georgia Branch located in Tifton, Georgia. SoSA operates a volunteer-driven Gleaning Network in Georgia that includes volunteers who save fresh produce every year and use it to feed hungry people all across the state. The Americorps VISTA works alongside the Program Coordinator in Tifton and state director in Atlanta, gathering best practices of gleaning to expand the gleaning network to other regions in South Georgia. Through the Georgia Gleaning Network, we coordinate volunteers in many areas of the state who enter fields after farmers have finished harvesting and simply pick up the tons of good produce left behind. Our volunteers represent groups from various church denominations, synagogues, youth groups, other civic organizations, individuals, and inner-city residents.

Background of Operations

Society of St. Andrew’s success is built on strong relationships with local influencers, individuals, communities and civic organizations. The collection of these partnerships with Society of St. Andrew is called the Gleaning Network. Given the Gleaning Network’s importance, it’s necessary to determine the key factors for sustainable growth. The most influential factors being, whether it precludes or includes the potential partner, are opportunity, distribution/ logistical barriers and the area's rate of food insecurity in that community. The types of relationships integral to operations will be addresses below and include Volunteer, Farmers, and Agencies. Society of St. Andrew cultivates will be addressed in the section Gleaning Model.

Gleaning Network 

The three sides of a triangle in Graphic 1 create the gleaning model for SoSA. Each one is important to the process and SoSA’s mission could not be done without all three. The key groups are defined as Volunteers, Agencies, and Farmers. Agencies SoSAs distribute to, Farmers or growers that donate Society of St. Andrew/Rotary First Harvest Resource Guide 4 produce and trained glean teams volunteers donate their time too. Without any one of these three, the structure would collapse. The Gleaning Model (graphic 1) is the visual depiction of Society of St. Andrew’s Gleaning Network. As mentioned in the previous section, the relationships are key in the organization's success so SOSA has created an efficient and effective information database to determine success. The database tracks many metrics but most importantly pounds donated by growers/producers, community service hours by a group or individual volunteer, and pounds distributed to receiving agencies. 


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