Southwestern Ontario Gleaners help eliminate food waste and get nutrition to those who need it most!

2 minute read

Most would agree that food waste is a problem. Some food waste can’t be avoided, such as bones, shells, and coffee grounds. However, according to the National Food Waste Council, almost 2.3 million tonnes of edible food is wasted each year in Canada. The Southwestern Ontario (SWO) Gleaners are trying to lessen food waste, and get nutritious food to those who need it most.

Located in Leamington, Ontario, the SWO Gleaners was formed 11 years ago to find a way to make use of vegetables that couldn’t be sold in grocery stores due to size, shape, or blemishes. Gleaning is the act of taking something that would otherwise go to waste and making good use of it. Gleaning is nothing new. In fact, the act of gleaning dates back to biblical times, when farmers were told to leave the edges of their fields unharvested for the poor, widows, and orphans. Although farmers are no longer required to share their bounty, many often do and 95% of the produce used by the SWO Gleaners is donated by local farmers.

The SWO Gleaners save over 1,000,000 pounds of produce each year, mostly carrots, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes. Around 20 volunteers come together each morning and act as inspectors, removing blemishes from produce. What’s left gets chopped up in an industrial dicer, and then dried in an industrial dehydrator. Some other ingredients are added to boost nutrition, such as split peas. Then everything is packaged into a soup mix and shipped to where it is most needed.

The dehydrated soup mixes are ideal for overseas shipment, due to their light weight and long shelf-life. Most is sent to partner organizations in Central America and Africa, but approximately 10% is sent to local organizations in Southwestern Ontario.

With their large volunteer work force and generous food donations, SWO Gleaners is able to keep their costs down. In fact, they are able to produce 100 servings of soup for about $8.50 and they were able to maintain 60% of their typical output throughout COVID. However, inflation has taken a toll on the price of packaging and distribution. That’s where the Kindred Charitable Grant will help. These funds will go towards the cost of plastic bags, and cardboard boxes as well as shipping costs. According to Joel Epp, General Manager of SWO Gleaners, “this will mean more meals for those who need them.”

Kindred Credit Union is pleased to support the SWO Gleaners as they engage with partners and volunteers to improve access to healthy food while taking meaningful action to reduce food waste.

SWO Gleaners are just one of the recipients of a grant from Kindred Credit Union’s 2023 Charitable Fund. You can see the complete list of 19 organizations recognized for their work in the community on

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