From a few dozen neighbors helping each other - to thousands
working together weekly.
Gleaning, the picking of produce that otherwise would be plowed under or left to rot, traces its roots back to ancient cultures. It is documented in the Old Testament with its reference to Ruth and her neighbors following in the wake of the farmers' harvest, picking up the remaining bits of grain.
Gleaning in Oregon started in Washington County by the local community action program in 1972. It spread to each of the four local counties when people of low-income organized a self-help effort called the “Gleaning Project." Membership required an individual be low-income and that they share the produce they glean with an 'Adoptee' - a person who is physically unable to help pick the produce.
That same year in 1972, a handful of Clackamas residents formed a group and began picking fields and distributing food along the highway system. Eight years later they became what is now Gleaners of Clackamas County, and rented a facility to manage the abundance of food and the growing number of members. Then, in 1992, property was acquired and a fund was established to build the current warehouse at the top of the hill in Oregon City.
We remain an all-volunteer cooperative run by and serving low-income members and their adoptees. Although we continue to glean actual farms and fields, the organization has evolved to include surplus from grocers, food manufacturers, and other distributors, partially used chemicals from transfer stations and clothing and household goods from the public.
On average, we serve 3,000 individuals with a generous supply of food every week. We also partner with charities and churches making our overall reach over 5,000 people.
"It was the 80's and my husband was on strike. He had time on his hands, and we needed food for our large family. My friend told me about gleaning so we became one of the original members. When work started back up my husband was able to keep hauling field pickings on his days off from driving long-distance to and from Alaska."
Mary Hamilton, Gleaner since 1986
"I was praying God would give my husband direction in retirement. One day the president of Gleaners came into my restaurant and as I served him coffee he told me about the organization. We joined and have kept going all these years because our 7 long-time adoptees are counting on us."