Volunteers Harvest Surplus Produce for Locals in Need

Sonoma County residents are getting into gleaning.

A growing number of volunteers are working to make sure that Sonoma’s fall bounty gets to locals in need by harvesting surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste. Duskie Estes, a popular local chef and Food Network star, says her Healdsburg nonprofit, Farm to Pantry, has over 180 gleaners gathering produce six days a week for food pantries and aid groups.

And Dani Wilcox, founder of Sonoma County Gleaners, says more residents have asked her group to pick fruit and vegetables from smaller backyard gardens. “The people that have that surplus feel they won’t let it go to waste this year,” she explains.

David Goodman, chief executive of the Redwood Empire Food Bank, says

gleaned produce is often a key ingredient in the premade entrees the food pantry makes and distributes.

These donations are needed, especially as the organization has seen demand for its emergency food boxes increase by 300% since the pandemic began. “It’s an opportunity for people to engage in hunger relief who didn’t necessarily have the ability to contribute in other ways,” he says.