Sharing the bounty

Sharing the bounty

Woman in tree picking clementine orangeThe Stanford Gleaning Project is an student organization dedicated to illuminating the passive food resources in our landscape and reallocating the wasted produce to those in need. In 2011, BeWell spoke with former co-presidents, Gabriela Leslie and Mary Chambers  about the group’s efforts and how volunteers can get involved.

What is the Gleaning Project?

The Stanford Gleaning Project harvests unused fruit growing in campus landscaping. Ostensibly planted for beautification, these oranges, avocados, persimmons, mission figs, grapefruits, tangerines, kumquats, limes, lemons, loquats, strawberry trees, apples, and pomegranates (to name a few) are organic and delicious! Recognizing this fruit as a valuable passive source of food, we glean and donate it to those who need fresh and nutritious produce. Every week we transport, on average, over a hundred pounds of fruit to the Free Farm Stand in the Mission District of San Francisco, where we help distribute it for free to anyone. Members of the Gleaning Project also volunteer at the Free Farm, a community urban farm in the Tenderloin which grows produce that is given away for free on site and at the Free Farm Stand.

Who benefits from the project?

We provide fresh, local, and organic fruit to people who might not be able to afford it in grocery stores. The Gleaning Project is committed to the principle of giving and sharing freely, without monetary exchange. Hand-picking the fruit also educates our student volunteers about the bounty that goes unnoticed around us. We hope to help people recognize the hidden gifts in our rich landscape, and empower them to share it. If we open our eyes, some of the finest foods are growing just within arm’s reach! This understanding will help change the way both harvesters and recipients think about the ways in which we participate in our food systems.

How many people help make it run?

We have approximately 10 core volunteers who attend weekly harvests, and who share the responsibility of transporting and distributing the fruit in the city. We also have a pool of about 50 volunteers in the community who occasionally help with harvests. Our wise mentor, Professor Page Chamberlain, lives near the Mission District and facilitates the San Francisco activities.

How much food is harvested each year and where is it found?

We harvest hundreds of pounds of fruit per year, and we harvest primarily from central campus, around residences, and the faculty neighborhood. Last year we surveyed the area and compiled a Google map of over 125 fruiting trees (with over 31 different species identified). This year, two students used data from Stanford Grounds Services to make a complete GIS map of fruiting species on campus and in the faculty neighborhood.

How can I get involved?

Send an email to us at We email a weekly announcement of the time and meeting place for the harvest, and all are welcome to help pick! You can also learn more by reading our blog at

By Julie Croteau