Episode 3: Stiles Najac of Cornell Cooperative Extension

Stiles Najac, Food Security Coordinator and operator of the Gleanmobile

In episode 3 of Food Warriors, we meet Stiles Najac, the Food Security Coordinator of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County, New York. Stiles is the woman behind the wheel of the Gleanmobile. This noble duo -- along with an incredible posse of volunteers -- are recovering 270,000 pounds of fresh produce per year. That delicate and seasonal bounty is then swiftly delivered to soup kitchens, food pantries and food banks throughout Hudson Valley. 

This show is going to get you pumped on gleaning, so don't miss the Resources offered at the bottom of this post. Tons of ways to get connected as a volunteer, including regional programs that host traditional gleaning activities. Then there are six different apps listed that use mobile technology to coordinate farmers, businesses, charities and food drivers (read: YOU!) when recovered food becomes available. Additionally, for farmers: a knockout guide from the National Gleaning Project to help farmers to get those tax deductions every time they donate food. Sweet!

Connect with Stiles: 

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  • Gleaning defined, biblical references and art. Whatever happened to gleaning? [4:35]
  • Cornell Cooperative extension created by USDA land-grant University system and its programs [6:33]
  • Growth of Cornell gleaning project from 70,000 pounds produce gleaned (2006) to 270,000 (2016)  [8:07]
  • The yearly struggle to sustain the gleaning program: volunteers and staff [8:59]
  • What the busiest weeks of the year look like for Stiles: peak harvesting season [9:28]
  • Length of the gleaning season June - November, peaking July through October [10:42]
  • Challenges with delivering produce to food banks: Significance of the Gleanmobile [11:28] 
  • Lack of infrastructure and labor is a huge obstacle for food banks to receive donations of fresh produce [12:40]
  • How storing produce on a refrigerated truck quadrupled the amount of produce pantries and soup kitchens were able to accept [13:31] 
  • Research confirms the efficacy of donation transportation and donation storage and handling [14:51]
  • Gleaning programs are sustained by phenomenal volunteers [15:40]
  • The CROW CANNON STORY (!) [16:39]
  • Get involved with gleaning: examples [21:51]
  • The OKRA STORY: How to keep the service mentality in check and not slip into the “I know what’s best for you” mode [23:17]
  • Only 3% of our farmland is currently being grown with fruits and vegetables; 50% is devoted to corn and soy exclusively  [27:33]


Jonathan Bloom at www.wastedfood.com and his book, American Wasteland >>> buy it here <<< 

Food Cowboy at http://www.foodcowboy.com/

ReFED Roadmap at http://www.refed.com


Volunteering Opportunities:


  • http://www.foodcowboy.com/ Connects food companies, farmers and food haulers with charities to expedite donations of time sensitive produce using mobile technology  
  • https://www.foodspoileralert.com/ Coordinates communication between Farmers, Businesses and Nonprofits for donation and distribution of recovered food
  • https://www.zeropercent.us/ Gleaning from restaurants and events. Routes surplus food from commercial kitchens to soup kitchens and other charities to provide meals
  • https://gocopia.com and http://communityplates.org/cp-app/ Restaurant and food store gleaning meets Uber. "Food Heroes" are dispatched to collect excess food from businesses and delivers them to most appropriate charities. 
  •  https://olioex.com/ (UK) Connects neighbours with each other and with local shops so surplus food and other items can be shared, not thrown away
  • https://www.planzheroes.org/#!/ (UK) Online platform connecting businesses with surplus food to donate with charities, and facilitates transportation by volunteer members.  


Don’t be be dissuaded by it’s corny title...“Let’s Glean!" is a fantastic starting point and overview of gleaning from the USDA: https://www.usda.gov/documents/usda_gleaning_toolkit.pdf

Also, check out http://www.endfoodwaste.org/go-gleaning-.html

Guide for Farmers to collect tax deductions for donations under the new 2016 tax code, offered by the National Gleaning Project http://forms.vermontlaw.edu/farmgleaning/factsheets/EnhancedTaxDeductionGuideForFarmers.pdf

& for Farmers in UK, from Feedback's Gleaning Network: http://feedbackglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Feedback-Gleaning-Network-UK-Information-Sheet-For-Farmers-20161.pdf

Gleaning Farmers Markets: A case study in Seattle from www.mealspartnership.org http://www.mealspartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/JFS_MarketGleaning_Final.pdf

Academic resource: Literature review and gleaning programs best practices, from Chatham Kent Food Policy Council http://letstalkfood-ck.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/FINAL-CKPHU-Edible-Gardens-and-Gleaning-Literature-Review-and-Best-Practices-Final.pdf