From Food Waste to Food Rescue: Finding my Inner Food Warrior

By: Katrina Weakland, AmeriCorps Member

You truly can’t grasp the scope of food waste and an undermined food system until it hits really close to home. This happened to me when I was standing in a field, full of salvageable produce, knowing it would inevitably be plowed into the ground if no one came to rescue it. I had to do something about this. What is even more shocking: a few weeks prior, I had a meeting with Mel Curtis, Mo Valley’s YMCA Director of the Anti-Hunger Backpack Program, who told me his story of discovering a serious food insecurity crisis affecting communities in Centre County.  

I couldn’t wrap my brain around this. We are plowing nutritious, bountiful food into the ground, on the other hand, we have local communities struggling to feed their families. I do understand there are various socioeconomic factors to contribute to this issue, but with a robust agriculture presence in Pennsylvania, why are some many communities struggling with food insecurity. Why are there gaps in our food system? How can we bridge these gaps to help our hungry communities? Something resonated in me and I wanted to find a way to help.

I reached out to a friend and found a few student volunteers to help glean “the leftovers” of unwanted, misshapen, and bruised peppers, tomatoes, corn, butternut squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe to just name a few. With just a handful of volunteers, literally less than 10 people, a few days, we managed to rescue and donate nearly 2600 pounds of fresh produce to the local food banks and pantries. Let me say it again: we rescued nearly 2,600 pounds of food that was going to be plowed into the ground! I had my trunk filled to the brim with melons, corn and squash, plus a cascading mountain of vegetables in my back seat.  It’s crazy, but it’s unbelievable what can happen when  just few people come together. Imagine if we had 20 people, big things can happen!

A few of the Gleaning volunteers proudly displaying their harvest. Photo: Katrina Weakland

As an Americorps member working with the Sustainable Food System, I’ve taken on this challenge to find solutions to reduce food waste and build networks of volunteers to join me on this journey to reduce food waste and improve food security. We need to bridge these food gaps and help build resiliency our communities. If you are interested in gleaning efforts this harvest season or have questions about what I do as an AmeriCorps member, feel free to contact me at for more information.