I think we can all agree that 2020 was an unconventional year in every respect.  And gleaning was no exception.  What began looking like a relatively normal year for Fayette County gleaning shifted to uncharted territory along with the rest of our lives in late February / early March as the pandemic ramped up.  Food centered organizations like Glean Kentucky scrambled and improvised on a near daily basis to continue finding ways to recover and distribute food as many distributing organizations had to pause or cease operations completely due to either Covid-19 related concerns or actual infections.

As all of these changes got underway, we couldn’t help but wonder how they might impact both the supply of donated produce as well as volunteers’ ability to continue to participate in gleaning.  As the months passed, I was surprised to learn as I looked at the numbers, that our volunteer coverage percentage was actually the best that it had ever been.

We closed out 2020 with 95% Volunteer Coverage, a 7% improvement over 2019.  While we had slightly fewer scheduled volunteer opportunities in 2020, we still had a higher number of volunteer signups than we did in 2019.  Glean Kentucky Staff made only 48 gleaning trips without any assistance from our volunteers, compared to 132 of those trips in 2019.

Wow!  I am always in awe of the level of dedication that Glean Kentucky’s volunteers exhibit, but it was truly inspiring last year.

Our overall poundage was down significantly from 2019, but this was to be expected as stalwart contributors like Reed Valley Orchard were basically unable to donate.  On top of that, the demand for local produce spiked, so local farm donations were already down.  Most producers were also less likely to want anyone extra out working in their fields, and all of the grocers with the exception of Costco had a decrease in total donations, likely due to increased sales because of the pandemic.

While there was nothing ideal about 2020 from just about any perspective, it was beautiful to watch the confluence of volunteers, food producers and food centered non-profit organizations come together to do everything that we could to distribute food.

From Glean Kentucky’s staff to our volunteers, thank you so much for all of your help in 2020.  This year is looking much the same so far, both in terms of the continued need for for food during this very difficult time and the high level of participation from our volunteers.

You all are amazing.

We’ll see you out there.