Gleaning: transactions at the nexus of food, commons and waste

Morrow, Oona


Gleaning, the practice of harvesting surplus crops at their source, has taken place for hundreds of years. The persistence of gleaning, alongside market-based forms of food provisioning, is an opportunity to examine how the food surplus of capitalist and feudal food economies can be appropriated for other uses, and support diverse economic practices. Presently, gleaning happens in informal and organized ways, and has long been a part of food security efforts in Europe and North America. Attention to the global scandal of food waste has generated increased support for gleaning efforts. This chapter examines the history of gleaning, the laws that support gleaning, and the post-capitalist ‘afterlives’ of gleaned food in a contemporary food sharing enterprise. Reflecting on these histories, the chapter makes a case for re-embedding gleaning practices in the commons.