Gleaning in Your Own Backyard: Edible Landscapes

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Research shows that as much as one-third of the food supply in the United States goes to waste. That’s over 133 billion pounds of food. One way that Eat Greater Des Moines is trying to combat that food waste is by gleaning. Gleaning is a long-observed tradition dating back thousands of years. It is the act of collecting usable, leftover food before it can go to waste and distributing it to those in need. Today, dozens of gleaning programs are operating across the country, organizing in their communities, and gathering and redistributing millions of pounds of food every year.


Eat Greater Des Moines collaborates with local farms and gardens and private landowners to lead volunteers in harvesting excess produce and bringing it to local organizations serving food-insecure people. EGDM began leading volunteers in gleaning with three events in 2019 and saved 4,000 pounds of produce, which included mostly apples, as well as pears, potatoes, and sweet corn. Last year we saved 5,500 pounds of produce from private farms and public spaces such as McCombs Middle School. In 2021, we hope to grow our gleaning efforts to at least 15 events in central Iowa.


This 2021 gleaning season, we are excited to expand our efforts even further into the community. Meaning, we are coming to the backyards of homes all throughout the Central Iowa Community. Edible landscapes, like fruit trees, are embedded everywhere in our community, from parks to backyards to gardens and more. Residential gleaning efforts are a great way to highlight the edible landscapes in urban areas and the importance of planting food-producing plants in our community. Eat Greater Des Moines is looking for the opportunity to glean fruit trees in residential areas throughout Central Iowa. 


As part as our evolving response to the growing needs of our community, the produce that is gleaned will be used in a variety of ways:

  • 1.) To supplement our food rescue transportation program that rescues ready-to-eat food from Kum & Go convenience store and delivers to nonprofits, childcare centers, churches, and affordable housing communities 3 days a week
  • 2.) Used in our weekly Operation: Fresh Produce Drop (in partnership with Loffredo Fresh Produce). Organizations will be offered this extra produce in addition to the USDA Farmers to Families Food Boxes. 


We need YOUR help! Do you know of fruit trees that go unharvested in your community, neighborhood, or even your backyard? Eat Greater Des Moines would love to learn more about it. Contact Madison Staecker, Gleaning Coordinator, at or by phone at 515-423-4362. 

How can I help?

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Emma Gellerstedt

Emma Gellerstedt

Communications Intern