By Cathy Anstey

ANYONE brought up by parents who lived through the Second World War and rationing will be familiar with the expression “Waste not – want not!” I certainly am.

We were never allowed to get down from the table after a meal until we had finished every scrap of food on our plates.

And my mum was a great traditional cook who knew how to make the most of the food we had - using leftovers from the Sunday lunch to make more meals like cottage pie, cold cuts or sandwiches as well as boiling up a chicken carcass with vegetables, herbs and seasoning to make soup or stock for future use. Her bubble and squeak was to die for!

And I suppose it was understandable when our parents had experienced food shortages and unpalatable offerings like powdered egg for so many years in the 40s and 50s. A knobbly potato, wonky carrot or curly runner bean was just as acceptable as the perfectly formed ones as long as they tasted good.

And, as old habits die hard, even today I throw away very little food - my surplus home grown tomatoes and runner beans will find their way into chutneys, soups or curries.

Food waste however is a topical issue that various organisations nationwide, as well as locally, have been trying to tackle for a number of years.

According to Tristram Stuart, UK food waste campaigner and author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, 20 to 40 per cent of the UK’s fruit and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shops. This is mostly because they do not match the supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards.

And on top of this, according to the charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the UK’s households waste around 22 per cent of all the food they buy – although this has reduced by 21 per cent since 2007.

Now, as part of an international campaign to salvage discarded food, the age-old practice of gleaning has returned to Worcestershire in a bid to access those too small, too large, misshapen or surplus fruit and vegetables straight from the land or packing shed and make them available to local people in need.

In 18th century England, gleaning was a legal right for rural labourers and some ancient cultures promoted gleaning as an early form of a welfare system.

The Worcestershire Gleaning Hub is a result of a partnership between environmental organisation Feedback and Growing Worcestershire – a group of people from private and public sector organisations promoting sustainable agriculture and community involvement in food growing.

Newly appointed Worcestershire Gleaning Hub co-ordinator Lizzie Pegler said modern gleaning involves volunteers, farmers and food redistribution charities working together to salvage tones of fresh food left behind after the harvest or where it is not commercially viable to harvest. It is then redirected to local people in need.

“This is just starting in Worcestershire and I think it will take off here because it fits into what is already going on here with food sustainability. There are Transition towns and food co-ops and people are backing it. I think it has got potential here and I am really excited about it,” she said.

Lizzie currently has five gleans confirmed and organised Worcestershire’s first gleaning event at The Care Farm at The Fold in Bransford, near Worcester, where five volunteers armed with a wheelbarrow, spades and a good helping of willingness collected 150kg of potatoes - the equivalent of 1,875 portions.

“This important staple, otherwise destined to rot, was redirected to those most in need via Worcester’s food bank, Maggs Day Centre and St Paul's Hostel.”

Worcester District Gleaning co-ordinator Dan Day said: “I'm very happy with how our debut event went and am very grateful to Will Tooby for giving us the opportunity to get off to such a successful start.

“Thanks also go to our recipients, who play the vital role of getting the food to those who need it most, and, of course, thanks to the gleaners themselves for all their hard work.”

Other local gleans will bring in fruit – mainly apples – as well as vegetables. “October and November are going to be very busy. There are over a ton of gala apples to be gleaned from a farm in Newent,” said Lizzie, who has a master’s degree in sustainability.

“Some farmers talk about the problems they have with cosmetic standards from the supermarkets and they do not want to see their food go to waste. Sometimes a whole field can go to waste.

“There was a case where the runner beans were too muddy, long and curved. Cabbages can be too big and spring onions will often be rejected because they are too big.

“Some farmers are really happy to collaborate with us. Some do not want to admit they have an issue and some just say ‘No’.

“We want more people to take part and we can only do it with the good will of the farmers. We cannot pay the farmer but we try to reduce the inconvenience to them,” said Lizzie.

“We also try to get pack house waste. Sometimes the grading is not done until the goods are in the shed. We just collect it from there.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can sign up at

“Volunteers get a picnic lunch provided and we do offer to pay some travel expenses where we can. We try to organise car sharing and organise the volunteers.

“Big gleans can have up to 20 people. It depends on how much there is to be gleaned and how many the farmer agrees to have on the field,” she added.

Any farmers or growers interested in having a gleaning event on their property can also e-mail Lizzie via

Also, any organisation interested in becoming a beneficiary of produce gleaned in Worcestershire can e-mail Lizzie via

• The Gleaning Network nationally started in 2012 and up to the end of last year had salvaged 110 tons of food – equal to one million portions of fruit and vegetables across the UK. This was accomplished with 500 volunteers over 56 gleaning days.