Thurston County Food Bank has been gleaning between 40 and 60,000 lbs of produce each year, with thanks to a few key donors. TCFB works primarily with six growers (5 small scale commercial farms and 1 service club who grows solely for the food bank). In TCFB's experience, gleaning programs don’t need many donors, but rather key donors. TCFB currently has set gleaning days scheduled with several farms. Having a set schedule is easier on the farmer, the coordinator, and volunteers.
Remember that not all donors are the same. Let sites know that they have a variety of ways to donate. Examples include field gleaning, cull-gleaning, market or farm pick-ups, and drop-offs at your organization. Find the right method for the right farm and help make the process as simple as possible for them.
Be consistent with donors. If you say you are going to do something or be somewhere, keep your word. Keeping donors happy is the most important aspect of a gleaning program. It is helpful to keep an organized folder of gleaning site profiles for each farm or garden your organization has a relationship with, keep notes about their preferred method of contact, farm specifics, directions, etc.
TCFB has organized over 90 events this year. The gleaning coordinator, or another paid staff person, has attended nearly every event. This is to ensure that farms and relationships are respected. Volunteers can easily make mistakes that can become deal breakers for growers. Be specific with volunteers and be mindful of their work.
Thurston County Food Bank (TCFB) is located in Olympia, WA. Established by volunteers in 1965, TCFB has continued to grow since that time. TCFB reaches the community through a variety of services; food bank distribution, satellite location distribution, FORKids, mobile food bank sites, and summer lunch program. TCFB utilized 7800 volunteers who donated 50,379 hours this past year. Thurston County Food Bank has a large presence in the Thurston County community, serving 57,234 clients in 2014.