Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Food Studies

First Advisor

Polly Adema

First Committee Member

Stephanie Maroney


The practice of gleaning began as a way for the poor to provide sustenance for themselves and their families. Changes in societal ideas about private property as well as a shift toward a neoliberal style of governance have caused gleaning to become what it is today: a practice primarily undertaken by charitable organizations, nonprofits, and church groups who then donate their bounty to local food banks, providing fresh produce to the food insecure. In modern society, gleaning is often held up as a single solution to the problems of food insecurity, poor nutrition, and food waste. This thesis complicates that discourse by analyzing the websites of five different San Francisco Bay Area gleaning groups to investigate how they present themselves as fitting into the larger conversation surrounding food charity, health, and food waste. This thesis uses qualitative and quantitative textual analysis to show how the language used on each organization’s website illustrates the organization’s relationship with those three values. Each organization presents itself as fitting into contemporary food recovery discourse in a different way: one focuses primarily on community building; one is looking to expand its model as far as possible; one seeks to be a solution to poor nutrition, food insecurity, and food waste in its community; one provides myriad resources to anyone looking; and one actively embraces the food insecure. The differences among these organizations show the one-dimensionality of the current discourse surrounding gleaning as a single solution to food insecurity, poor nutrition, and food waste. While gleaning can, and does, have value, its focus on the individual’s role in solving food insecurity, poor nutrition, and food waste, as well as its inability to provide long-term solutions, complicates its role in contemporary food recovery.





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