In 2013 Founder Karen Clay left Corporate America after 38 years and in 2014 volunteered with Harvest CROPS a residential gleaning organization to incorporate and create their own nonprofit and served as Board Chair. Starting in 2014 she started networking with organizations interested in food recovery and distribution and has been an active participant with the San Diego Food System Alliance now for 9 years. From 2018 to early 2020 she co-led the South San Diego Food Insecurity Network with the City of Chula Vista. This group's membership all had capacity issues and came up with the original idea of creating a Food Hub in South County. During the same time, Karen worked as the Logistics Coordinator with Senior Gleaners of San Diego County and assisted the San Diego Food System Alliance and the City of Imperial Beach to define and administer the Vision 2030 project to gather input from the general public.
In April 2020, I Love to Glean incorporated and started operations in San Diego County. In the first 8 months, they received 3 food distribution contracts for emergency food boxes as part of the USDA Farm to Family pandemic food relief program. Along with many amazing Collaborating Partners, I Love to Glean orchestrated a mass start-up of 40 distribution partners all over San Diego County to distribute 3.3 million pounds of nourishing food along with ~175,000 pounds of rescued food. The business systems created included an allocation system, scheduling just-in-time delivery of perishable food with up to 45 distributions per week. The trucking system that was created used box trucks, vans, and pickup trucks, which were made possible by numerous partners as well as many volunteers from each organization.
Love to Glean would either deliver or have agencies pick up from the Carlsbad warehouse that they were able to use. Partner organizations would then have their volunteers complete drive-through distributions at their own locations serving their local clientele. They ended 2020 with a 2,400-family distribution at Southwestern College. Along with the mass distributions they participated as a Core Team member of the start-up “Fish to Families” program delivering 16,000 fish-based meals to those in need. Transported 300 meals twice a week to distribution points for the food-insecure largely homeless, families, and seniors in need. Started working in a leased warehouse in Chula Vista in July 2020.
In 2021 they did weekly packing events with 3 partner agencies in our Chula Vista warehouse. At this time they were rescuing food from local produce wholesalers and larger distributors. In August 2021 they had to close the Chula Vista location because of financial constraints and started doing drive- through distributions with Feeding San Diego in Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and Lemon Grove with 3 teams of local volunteers. Ended this year with a $94,000 spice donation that was shared with 8 organizations.
In 2022 they completed 22 drive-through distributions with Feeding San Diego with volunteer teams in Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and Lemon Grove. Weekly packing and distribution at St. Pius Parish in Chula Vista of Starbucks products provided by Feeding San Diego. Worked with SBCS, Suncoast Co-op, and Sweetwater School District to define and deliver an Imperial Beach Cohort of the Resident Leadership Academy to Imperial Beach High School students. This cohort focussed on organic waste reduction, composting, food recovery, and redistribution to educate youth leaders in the area. In September the founder started as Co-Chair of the Live Well San Diego South Region Food Insecurity Workgroup which included ~20 organizations. Over 100 volunteers are signed up to help with I Love to Glean activities.
In 2023 I Love to Glean continues to Co-Chair the Live Well San Diego South Region Food Insecurity Workgroup. Starting in the Spring of 2022, I Love to Glean volunteers have been helping the Lucky Duck Foundation pack meal bags for the homeless at the San Diego Rescue Mission each week. As of September, they have sent out a Capacity Survey to over 60 South Region food recovery and distribution organizations to better understand their needs and how as a Region they can improve the systems and gain capacity in all the areas that are needed. They are now working on funding and planning for a Cold Food Hub and another Fish to Families program. To date, they have received and distributed over 3.7 million pounds of food since their start.
Since 2019 I Love To Glean has participated in the County of San Diego TAC meetings and TAC Edible Food Recovery meetings. Member of the Association of Gleaning Organizations (AGO) and California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) and their Edible Food subgroup.