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Urban Gleaning Supports Community Food Bank

The Issue

Despite California’s economic and agricultural prosperity, over one in four Californians are hungry or at serious risk of hunger—significantly worse than the nation as a whole. Hunger is a symptom of poverty; far too many families experience devastating health consequences when their low wages or modest public benefits cannot cover the cost of housing, utilities, and food (California Food Policy Advocates, 2013). In San Benito County, 20.1% of children live in food insecure households (Kids Count, 2014) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015 declared seven of eleven schools in the Hollister school district as Community Eligibility Provision sites, meaning breakfast and lunch have no cost for all students at the campuses as part of an effort to encourage students in high-poverty areas to take advantage of carefully balanced, nutritious meals.

What Has ANR Done?

Modeled after an Urban Gleaning program in Portland Oregon, San Benito County 4-H’er Claire Gastello coordinated an effort to glean unpicked citrus fruit from local homes throughout the city of Hollister and donate the harvested fruit to the local food pantry. The project was important to Gastello a nine-year 4-H member of the Cienega 4-H club “because it gave me a chance to give back to my community and develop leadership skills”. Rather than seeing mature citrus fruit that has fallen to the ground go to waste, Claire did an environmental scan of the community to determine where unharvested fruit was available, worked with homeowners to obtain their consent to glean the fruit, and trained 4-H members and parents on how to properly use tools to safely conduct the harvest. With community service being a major focal point of the 4-H Youth Development Program, and with a monetary contribution from the San Benito County 4-H Council of $400.00, this project actively engaged 56 4-H members and adult volunteers in addressing food insecurity issues in San Benito County instead of just being passive receivers of information.

The Payoff

Two-thousand pounds of citrus donated to the community food bank of San Benito County

“I think the most important thing I learned from this project is organization. It takes a lot of effort and organization to make any event happen. I had to write a newspaper ad, knock on doors, and talk to the people in our community, and go to different [4-H] clubs to spread the word about my project. I also had to go to [4-H] Council twice. All of this took organization”. Most importantly, the citizens of San Benito County benefited from the project by feeding the hungry with two-thousand pounds of citrus, cleaning up unused fruit, and supporting the community pantry which provides food security to over 9000 individuals annually.

Clientele Testimonial

“This project taught me about agriculture in our county and about the community pantry and how it helps people in our community”. Clair Gastello


Supporting Unit: San Benito County

Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty
Youth Development Advisor
UCCE San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties
831-637-5346 x 12