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Produce Good, Feeding San Diego gleaning event in Rancho Santa Fe kicks off San Diego Gives

Produce Good co-founders Nita Kurmins Gilson and Alexandra White at a Rancho Santa Fe orchard.
Produce Good co-founders Nita Kurmins Gilson and Alexandra White at a Rancho Santa Fe orchard.
(Karen Billing)

Produce Good and Feeding San Diego came together for a big gleaning event on Sept. 2, rescuing produce from over 600 lemon trees in a Rancho Santa Fe orchard. At the start of the Labor Day weekend, over 40 volunteers were there to give their time, to “labor for their neighbor”.

Participating hunger relief nonprofits that day included Community Resource Center, Paige’s Pantry of Oceanside, Urban Corps and Plus Box (+Box), a local nonprofit based in Encinitas that was founded during the pandemic to deliver reliable healthy food to food-insecure neighbors, including partnering with the Encinitas Union and Solana Beach School Districts.

A volunteer gleaner at work.
(Karen Billing)

This was the first time Produce Good had done a big pick this way, doing it as a way to kick-off San Diego Gives on Sept. 8, a 24-hour fundraising event intended to create a movement of local giving and shine a light on the work of local nonprofits.

“We’re showing what we do, in action,” said Produce Good co-founder Nita Kurmins Gilson.

Founded in 2014, ProduceGood is a food recovery organization that harvests excess fruits and veggies from orchards, farms and markets. The lemons picked will go to five organizations in San Diego County, including Feeding San Diego, the county’s leading hunger-relief and food rescue organization.

The residential harvest took place on a grove on El Camino Del Norte (the owner wished to remain anonymous).

On the hot morning, Kurmins Gilson welcomed the group of volunteers, which included several first-time gleaners, and provided instruction under the shade of a tree. They were looking to pluck lemons that were all yellow and nice with no breaks or tears in the skin—no lemons picked up from the ground.

Produce Good's Nita Kurmins Gilson leads the volunteers.
Produce Good’s Nita Kurmins Gilson leads the volunteers.
(Karen Billing)

With 600 trees on the property, the volunteers wouldn’t get to them all that day and Kurmins Gilson imagined Produce Good would return several times to harvest the fruit.

The word gleaning, she said, refers to the ancient practice of farmers leaving the four corners of their fields unpicked for widows and orphans, an early form of social welfare. Produce Good has carried that model into the 21st century.

“There’s so much excess and so much need,” Kurmins Gilson said. “Forty percent of all U.S. food goes to waste and one in three San Diegans is food insecure. Those are terrible statistics and we can help lessen that and help reduce food waste.”

Produce Good is working every single day in San Diego County, they do backyard gleaning from as little as one tree to as big as a full orchard. So far this year they have gleaned 233,000 pounds of produce. Since their founding, they have rescued 3.6 million pounds of food to feed people, not landfills.

To learn more, visit producegood.org

To participate in San Diego Gives, visit sandiegogives.org.

Greg McGuire of +Box volunteered to glean.
(Karen Billing)
Volunteers in Rancho Santa Fe.
(Karen Billing)


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