Today marks fourteen years since Glean Kentucky’s founding!  Over the years, Glean Kentucky has been through many changes: we grew from a volunteer-run initiative to a staffed nonprofit organization, changed our name a few times, established gleaning networks in three regions across the state, and weathered a global pandemic.  

Throughout it all, however, many things have stayed the same.  We remain committed to our mission of gathering and redistributing excess fresh fruits and vegetables to nourish Kentucky’s hungry.  Relationships continue to be at the forefront of our work: we are able to glean because of the generosity of our food donors, and we connect gleaned produce with those who need it through the time and talents of our volunteers and hunger-fighting partners.  And, from our board of directors to our volunteers and staff, many of the people who make our work possible remain the same.  

In celebration of our fourteenth birthday, we asked our staff to share some of their favorite memories of working with Glean Kentucky.  Here’s what they had to say:

Some of my fondest memories are when Glean was in its earlier days. We had just 4 staff members and we all worked so well together. We all still work very well together, but we have doubled in size and our staff is everywhere. 3 out of 4 of us are still here, and I know the 4th misses us! I got to experience a really special time for Glean and see us accomplish things we never thought possible.” – Bekah

During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many people – volunteers, farmers, restaurant owners, donors – really stepped up to meet the moment in a way that made the whole thing feel surmountable. It was the perfect example of Fred Rogers’ advice to ‘look for the helpers’ during tough times.” – Ben

“My favorite memory with Glean Kentucky is the first time I helped with a grocery store glean in Bowling Green. I was amazed when the grocery store employees appeared with a forklift and an entire pallet stacked high with surplus fruits and vegetables.  We loaded up the cargo van and in just a few hours we redistributed hundreds of pounds of fresh foods to feeding agencies throughout the city.  It can be extremely discouraging to think about environmental and social problems like food waste and hunger, but that glean reminded me that solutions are possible!” – Elaine

Some of my favorite Glean Kentucky memories happen whenever we’re able to get multiple members of the organization to come together on a project. Burgers and Beats is always a great example of this – It’s all hands on deck and our incredible teamwork impresses me every time.” – Gaby

Gleaning with my son and seeing him light up with ideas about what I do.” – Jerilyn

“While I struggle to capture a single moment during my time with Glean Kentucky that would surpass all of the other great moments that I’ve had during my time here, it’s no struggle at all to relate why it is that I love working for this organization and why I’ve stayed for seven years and counting.

Beginning with our mission: being able to make contributions to delivering fresh produce to those who lack access to it while helping to eliminate food waste in both the community that I live in as well as others, would be enough on its own. But it just so happens that I also am able to do so while working for an organization that cares as deeply about its employees as it does about its mission.

Glean Kentucky is the most supportive and flexible environment that I’ve ever worked within. I have learned new skills and honed others. I discovered a heretofore unknown love for working with data, have had the chance to work with scores of wonderful volunteers, many of whom have become good friends over the years, and get to go to work every day with an exceptionally bright and wonderful group of fellow glean humans.

I’m just over the moon for this organization, our work, my co-workers, our volunteers, the farms, grocers and others that donate the produce that we distribute, and the partner agencies to whom we distribute it.” – Jimmy

It’s hard to choose a specific one. It’s really special when staff are able to go out to glean together. We all have different roles within our organization, and it’s meaningful when we can connect while doing what we’re all about.

Also, any time we have an early field harvest scheduled with our seasoned volunteers, it is always a ball. We have some real comedians that make working in the blistering heat, wind, or cold a delightful experience. People from all walks of life come to take part in our work, and it’s incredible to watch people connect while volunteering.” – Madison