Spare fruit put to good use
A community food project launched five months ago is bearing fruit for its Tawa-based co-ordinator – quite literally.
Keen to see fruit, that would otherwise rot on the ground, be picked and put in the larders of foodbanks, Auckland woman Di Celliers came up with the Community Fruit Harvesting concept in 2011.
The idea has ripened in at least nine other centres. Tawa resident Julie Harris established a version for greater Wellington in September last year.
Owners of trees laden with grapefruit, lemons, apples, pears, feijoas and the like in Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti are calling up.
Picked fruit ends up with the Kaibosh Food Rescue, which distributes to Wellington City Mission, Salvation Army Hope Centre, Women’s Refuge and others, and Kiwi Community Assistance, helping foodbanks in Wellington and Porirua.
Ms Harris says she has no problem with fruit going to foodbanks in the areas it’s picked in.
‘‘Kapiti’s foodbank called two days ago and asked if some fruit picked there could be channelled to them. ‘‘The answer is, absolutely.’’ But it needs local pickers to step forward. Every volunteer who picks gets the option of taking away a bag of fruit. They can give away the fruit to a foodbank or choose to turn it into jam and donate it to a charity of their choice.
‘‘The whole object is rescuing and using fresh fruit. Whatever channel it goes through to get to families in need, I’m not too concerned. As long as I can track it and record it.’’
Everyone knows fruit is a key to a healthy diet, ‘‘but look in the supermarket trolleys of many families getting food grants from or coming under budgeting advice and paying off bills – the fruit just isn’t there,’’ Ms Harris says. ‘‘It’s too expensive for them.’’
Community Fruit Harvesting can also be a service to the tree owners.
No-one wants the unsightly mush of fallen fruit on their lawn, and for some elderly people picking the fruit is now beyond them.
She is liaising with real estate agents over houses on the market where fallen fruit, and the flies it attracts, can turn buyers off.
Ms Harris says she has just been offered a pear tree in Tawa and it is ‘‘the height of a telegraph pole.
‘‘There is at least 60 kilogram of fruit but I need a team of volunteers to pick this very challenging one and be very confident on high ladders – in fact it is almost cherry picker stuff if it wasn’t for a difficult backyard access. ’’
Plums, stone fruit and most berries have come and gone with a hot summer bringing on an early harvest. She expects apples, pears and the like will come on strong in early March.
There are teams of pickers on her roster, who are alerted on the charity’s Facebook page.
Ms Harris says she has enough people willing to turn fruit into jam and preserves, ‘‘ but I always need more pickers.
‘‘Picking can be healthy outdoor fun for families, kids, caravaners, neighbourhood picking bees ... Neighbourhood Awareness Week is coming up.’’
Awareness is only starting to spread but quantities dealt with are already large.
A Waikanae family recently delivered to Ms Harris’ garage 45kg of grapefruit they’d picked from just two trees in their backyard.
‘‘We’re now talking truck loads of fruit.’’
People with surplus fruit, or volunteers willing to pick, can email pick firstname.lastname@example.org, visit wwwpickfruit.co.nz or call Ms Harris on 027 240 6606.
Splendid resource: Wellington’s Community Fruit Harvesting leader Julie Harris says the owner of this tree laden with apples is happy to see the fruit go to a good cause.