Gleaners for Good, a Riverside Food Rescue Nonprofit, Have Picked Over 9,100 Pounds of Fruit

Blog

(This article was written by Ryan Hagen of The Press Enterprise, and published on January 27, 2019)

Bridget Harris had 10 trees weighed down by citrus and a back that wouldn’t allow her to pick them.

Elsewhere in Riverside, people were hungry, with just canned food or nothing at all to eat.

The solution to both problems — and dozens of similar situations around the Riverside area — is “Gleaners for Good,” a project organized by the nonprofit Riverside Food Rescue.

The gleaners pick food — mostly oranges, lemons and grapefruit, but it could be any crop — for people who can’t do it themselves, then take it to the Feeding America Riverside | San Bernardino food bank, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Riverside and other places where it can be distributed to hungry people in the Riverside area.

The idea is centuries old, said Sue Struthers, who serves on the boards of the Riverside Food Systems Alliance and Riverside Food Rescue.

“At all these meetings, people would say, ‘We have lots of hungry people and there’s lots of fruit — we need to glean produce,” Struthers said. “I finally decided I was going to be the one to do it.”

Since receiving grant funding in May 2018, the gleaners have donated more than 9,100 pounds of food. Most of that comes during citrus season, which is peaking now.

Harris, who’s in her 60s, said she had more oranges and grapefruit than she could remember in recent years, but she couldn’t find anyone to help her pick the fruit on her hillside. Then she saw a post about the gleaners on the Nextdoor page for her Canyon Crest neighborhood.

“I’m very thankful they can help out and the fruit can help someone else,” Harris said.

Mid-morning Friday, Jan. 25, the two grant-funded employees of the gleaners started picking Harris’ trees. They used shears to cut the stem as close to the fruit as possible and washed the tools between houses, to avoid spreading Asian citrus psyllid. They also made sure to wear long sleeves to avoid cutting themselves on thorns.

It’s easy to learn and a good way to spend a few hours, said AnaLisa Campos, food connection coordinator for the Riverside Food Rescue.

Volunteers typically help when the gleanings are on weekends and are always appreciated, Campos said.

“It’s a great way to help people out,” she said.

People with food or time to donate can go to the Food Rescue’s Facebook page or email RiversideFoodRescue@gmail.com.