“Gleaning” is an agricultural tradition. We did this often earlier in our marriage when we lived in the fruitful Red River Valley bordering Minnesota and North Dakota. Area farmers would call us up and let us know that the potato fields were harvested or the sweet corn was finished picking. We’d load up the kids, a few laundry baskets, and gather an abundance.

We remember fondly some nights where the entire meal was corn-on-the-cob or french fries. Mmmm, we were flat broke in those days, but the eating was still good! God provided through this largely-unknown practice of gleaning.

Simply put, gleaning is sharing in the overabundance of mass production. The farmers in Northern Minnesota were distributing potatoes nationwide. The potatoes left over in the field were just as good as the potatoes at the supermarket. We very much appreciated it.

Gleaning has spiritual roots. Check out these Old Testament verses:

  • When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:9-10. Lev. 23:22 says essentially the same thing.)
  • When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 24:19)
  • When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:20)

Most city supermarkets allow people to come in early in the morning or late at night and glean food that would normally be thrown away. We used to be involved in one in Colorado Springs. We worked with a coordinated group who related with supermarkets to help distribute food to families in need. We were very grateful for the help this food provided.

We see little shameful from gleaning leftovers from the vibrance of an economy from which everyone — including the poor — participate. Though finances are tight for families nowadays, we encourage families to stay off government assistance (see previous post “Four Thoughts on Government Assistance“). While federal assistance is receiving funds from the taxation of an unproductive government, gleaning is the receiving of the overabundance — freely and generously given — from productive business. Gleaning is an alternative that we see little shame in.

What are your thoughts on gleaning?

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.

  • KelliSue

    My neighbor picks up a few timesa week from a local supermarket -bakery. She had to register as a charity in order to do so, and then she opened up a bread pantry, to distribute it to local families. We get day old bakery items from them, take some in our minivan to our horse and buggy neighbors who couldn’t navigate the deeper snow to get this far, and put some in our freezer for weeks when there is none. Our state regulates things strictly, so I was surprised to find our supermarket can’t even give me the produce they throw away from the produce section for my goats to eat. It’s not allowed, by the health department.

    • http://creatingtreasures.blogspot.com tereza

      yes, Kellli Sue that is one of the things about big government… too much regulation.

      On another note….
      I have an older friend in church that she and her husband (he is blind) they plant a garden every year and she will often call me to come pick up vegetables when they harvest. One time I asked her why did she call us and she said “Every year before we begin planting we pray and ask God to bless our garden and harvest and then we ask Him to allow us to help and bless others. When the harvest comes, we pray and ask God who does He want us to bless with our fruit and He told us to call you. ”

      Aren’t you glad God got you covered??? :)

      Just got to share one more thing… my husband and I have been supporting a ministry in India for over 10 years now… it’s a ministry for orphans, poor children and families. They school, feed, house and lead them to the Lord. As we sow into this ministry and see lives transformed and provided for, we believe that our children will never go without. It’s our insurance… give and it shall be given back to you… overflowing and abundantly. God is faithful and good.

      Praise Jesus!

      • Jane

        And take away their culture and heritage in the process….

        • Claudia


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=799259836 Amy Woolley Pederson

    I wish that more Christians would look into it as an alternative to government assistance. As you have commented before, tough times call for being creative. Gleaning is one way of solving many problems using Biblical principles. I love this post.

  • Debbie

    Even though we are not poor, I would do it just because I hate to see good food thrown away!

  • Ninabi

    We don’t hold garage sales at our house. Any items we don’t need are donated. Always. They are for the gleaners and they go to charity shops where the money made goes to people in need. We’ve been blessed enough in this world so extra stuff? People who need it are welcome to it.

  • Nebomarth

    I noticed that the Biblical injunction is to save the gleanings for the fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner. I’m puzzled as to which category you place your family into.

  • Melissa from Momys

    How do you go about getting started? Cold call my local supermarket?

    • Anonymous

      That’s a good start. Let us know how it goes!

      • Melissa from Momys

        Ok, I am gonna spend a little time praying over it and then will call. I’ll keep you posted!

        • http://creatingtreasures.blogspot.com tereza

          Pray and see how God leads you…

          I would go to the ones that I frequently use and I would go and personally ask to talk to the manager. I believe that a friendly manner and face is really important.

          I go to a vegetable market in town and when I first started going I noticed that some of their vegetables were going bad… so I asked if they would be interested in selling them all to me with a discount. The owner told me “no” that the man (her husband) fed them to the hogs.

          Well months and years later, we have now become friends and she will from time to time give me discounts on some items. :)

  • Ginnamom

    We help at our local food bank and the guy who runs it gets prolly 80-90% of the food from gleaning the supermarkets. We also have a produce outreach mostly in the summer where volunteers go and “gleen’ fields of local farmers and they disturbute it among ppl in need. Were also in a very amish/mennonite community I will often drive ppl in the winter or summer to places in exchange for goods a bater type system

  • kate

    Thats a great painting by Jean Francois Millet titled The Gleaners.

  • Lee

    I am now living in Colorado Springs, and would like to get involved. How do I get in touch with the group from the Springs?

  • MindyRice8

    Waste not. Want not. Great idea!

  • Piper

    You do realise what you are describing is basically communism? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a stretch. This has to do with community and good will toward one another, nothing to do with governmental redistribution of wealth.

      No, this is not a model of communism.

  • Mrsd81

    We were at a fair last year and saw a food vendor throw away dozens of unsold hambugers and hotdogs as the fair was closing. Why not take this food to the homeless shelter or even the animal shelter!

    • Denelian

      because it’s illegal to give leftover food to people like that – especially prepared food. it’s more likely to be spoiled in some way, and there isn’t any way to control the content [without spending more than the food is worth] to make sure it’s safe for consumption

      • Guest

        Then they should offer it free to those at the fair, before leaving.  There are many that take their children to have fun but cannot afford the high prices to eat while there.

        • Beka

          I worked at a… “chain” restaurant, and we were specifically forbidden to give away food (pastry) at the end of the night. In fact, we were forbidden to even bag it seperately from the other trash so that people could easily find it in the top of the dumpster. This is because that company was sued by someone who found a bag of discarded food at the top of the dumpster, ate it, and got sick. Sad…

  • Nicole

    we used to be members of a Gleaners group in our town. Each family who was physically able was required to put in a certain amount of volunteer time each month. Many grocery stores donate to the Gleaners group & in the summer time many farmers contacted us to gather food that was left after the harvester went thru, things that would have been left to rot otherwise because the farmers did not have the time or help needed to go thru & pick by hand what the harvesting machines did not get. The only reason we quit was because I was pregnant & not up to volunteering & my husband was working such long hours at the time that he didn’t have time to either. Our oldest was only 14 at the time & Gleaners regulations required children to be 16 to help if a parent wasn’t able to be present. It is a wonderful program. We was blessed with many things we could never have afforded otherwise. Things like delicious fresh blueberries, strawberries & raspberries & soooo much more. I really enjoyed it. The Gleaners were a blessing to the farmers who didn’t want produce to just end up going to waste, the farmers blessed us by donating it, we blessed others by volunteering our time to go pick so that the elderly & physically disabled people in the group could have food that they could not afford to get otherwise.

  • Saturn500

    So, in other words, you can’t be bothered to take care of your kids yourselves, so you expect other people to just give them leftovers they would’ve otherwise thrown away. Because feeding your kids other people’s leftovers is a surefire way to make sure these “arrows” won’t break as soon as your twisted version of God “draws them from his quiver” so to speak.

    A few very sturdy arrows is better than a “quiverfull” of arrows that couldn’t pierce the exterior of a single serving of Jell-O. And yes, I’m saying that’s all you love your children for being: extensions of yourself with no potential of their own. Ammo to be used for converting the world to your twisted version of Christianity.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

      I think you have the Jeubs confused for someone else.
      I suspect you’ve been reading propaganda, Saturn500. You’re using buzz words from people who have attacked beautiful, loving families for welcoming children into their lives. Loving children is not twisted or a sect of any movement. You are welcome to keep reading this blog, but please give this community some thoughtful respect before jumping on the bandwagon to criticize it.