Gleaners Look to Harvest Benefits for Farmers at OR Legislature
SALEM, Ore. - Some Oregon families supplement a tight food budget by gleaning, or rounding up the excess from farm fields and orchards to feed themselves and share with food banks and charities. They're asking state lawmakers to allow farmers to write off the value of leftover crops as a charitable donation.
Sharon Thornberry, community food systems manager, Oregon Food Bank, said there used to be a Crop Donation Tax Credit, and bringing it back would help gleaners as well as farmers.
"It certainly makes it a lot easier for the farmers to do it," she said. "It is a tipping point, because farmers are more and more concerned about liability, so they need to think about how they are going to benefit by taking a risk."
The Crop Donation Tax Credit ended with an automatic "sunset" last year. Senate Bill 430 would reinstate it. Modern-day gleaners also collect cast-off food from farmers' markets, grocery stores, food processors and private yards and gardens - with the owners' permission.
Heather Thompson, a member of the Tualatin Valley Gleaners in the Beaverton area, said she learned the process years ago with her own family. Now, her group feeds about 200 people and still has food to share, she said.
"People are really willing to work for their food," she explained, "they're not just looking for a handout. And they're willing to not only help themselves but to help others. I think that's really important for everyone to know, that that is what gleaning is really all about."
The Oregon Food Bank has estimated there are about 24 gleaning organizations around the state with more than 10,000 members. Some of them are setting up a display in the State Capitol galleria on Tuesday and meeting with their lawmakers. The display is open to the public.