Spare fruit put to good use

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By SIMON ED­WARDS

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 fruit­nth­welling­, visit www­pick­ 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.

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