By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Gleaners from around Oregon gathered at the Capitol March 12 to celebrate 40 years of gleaning and show their support for Senate Bill 430.
The bill would allow farmers to claim a tax deduction for food they donate to gleaners and other hunger-relief groups.
The 20 or so gleaners gathered at the Capitol represented some of the 10,000 or so gleaners in the state, said Sharon Thornberry, community food systems manager for the Oregon Food Bank.
Gleaning organizations are made up of low-income residents who volunteer to glean food from Oregon farms to feed themselves and needy neighbors, Thornberry said.
"These people are all participating in their own solutions," she said.
"Low-income people become gleaners to supplement an inadequate diet, to earn their own food through their own work, to feel useful, to contribute to their community and to build esteem," Thornberry said.
Gleaning started in Oregon in 1972, Thornberry said, when Monica Belcher of Washington County saw unharvested fruits and vegetables going to waste on farms. Belcher developed gleaning guides and taught people how to harvest leftover crops and how to prepare and preserve fruits and vegetables.
The organizations are different than groups like the Salem Harvesters and the Portland Fruit Tree Project, which are made up of volunteers that glean crops solely to donate to food banks.
Thornberry estimated that a handful of groups operate like the Portland Tree Fruit Project, while more than two dozen groups scattered throughout Oregon operate as gleaners.
Thornberry encouraged farmers interested in opening farms to gleaners to call the Oregon Food Bank at 800-777-7427.
SB430 is in the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. No hearing on it was scheduled as of deadline.
A previous tax credit for the food donations expired Jan. 1 of last year.