Looking for information about Petaluma Bounty Hunters?
We’re looking for volunteers (to help harvest fresh fruit and vegetables from local orchards and farms) and drivers (to help drive donated food to local distribution sites). Read up on the program, roles and needs here. And when you’re ready to volunteer, simply fill out our online Volunteer Form or email [email protected].
Background on the Food Recovery or Gleaning or Movement
Experts tell us that as much as 47% of food grown and produced in the U.S. ends up in the dump. Meanwhile, 43% of school children in Sonoma County qualify for free or reduced lunch, considered an indicator of poverty and often linked to food insecurity, or a lack of consistent access to healthy food. This begs the question, “Why can’t more of this food go to the people who need it?”
In biblical times, farmers were admonished to leave extra food crops, particularly from fruit trees and cornfields, for the poor and travelers. Throughout history, in many places gleaning was a right granted to the poorest by the rural community, allowing them to return to the fields at sunset to gather the ears of wheat left by the harvesters.
In these days of fast food, “efficient” high-tech agriculture, and rapid transit food distribution systems, you’d think that more food would make it to people’s mouths, and less to the trashcan. But it doesn’t. The number of undernourished and food insecure people continues to grow (even here in Petaluma), in pace with our overflowing landfills.
Enter the modern food gleaning movement. As communities are becoming aware of the vast quantities of good food going to waste, food gleaning programs are sprouting up in many places.
Gleaning can be as simple as a few individuals harvesting their backyard fruit trees and delivering their fresh fruit to a neighbor or a local food pantry, or as complex as a statewide network of non-profits serving tens of thousands of low-income households with farm-picked, packaged or prepared food (and even firewood). In addition to connecting good food to people who need it, folks are discovering that gleaning helps to connect neighbor to neighbor, to increase awareness of the potential bounty of local food systems, and to foster a greater sense of community.
Produce Harvesting and Storage Tips
For good general information about harvesting and storing produce, the Donor’s Guide to Vegetable Harvest and Storage from the University of Maine is a good starting place.
Food Recovery Outside the Petaluma Area:
Petaluma Bounty takes a place-based approach to coordinating food recovery efforts. We want to complement existing partners’ efforts and minimize unnecessary miles from donor to service provider. Thus, we offer the incomplete list of resources below for you to consider if you’re outside of Petaluma. Remember, it’s always best if you can drop produce off directly to a place that accepts donations. If you have more than 500 pounds of produce to donate, it is best to contact the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
If you have prepared food, please connect with Sonoma Food Runners.
Santa Rosa Area
Redwood Empire Food Bank -will not pick up less than 500 pounds of produce but you can drop off donations of any amount.
Food Runners– specializes in prepared food but willing to pick up pre-picked produce.
For Service Providers Seeking Donations (outside Petaluma):
Petaluma Bounty worked alongside Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition, CropMobster, and UC Cooperative Extension to map the agencies that accept produce throughout Sonoma County. See the video below for an explanation.
Please click here for updated information.