Annually, thousands of pounds of valuable fruit, nuts and produce goes to waste throughout the Okanagan Valley. Abandoned orchards, residents with more fruit than they can use, and bumper crops all lead to an abundance of food that is often just left to rot in the fields. This year, thanks to a First West Foundation grant, the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project will continue their gleaning operations in the Central and South Okanagan with a few trial harvests in the Oliver area.
The aim of the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project is to “cultivate community through local food”. Volunteers pick fruit and transport it to local charities where it is redistributed to our most vulnerable residents. The harvested fruit is shared among the volunteer pickers, tree owners, and local charities. “The goal is to reduce the amount of wasted food and redistribute the healthy produce to hungry people in our communities,” says the project’s South Okanagan Coordinator, Deb Thornycroft. Since 2012, over half a million pounds of fruit has been picked and redistributed throughout the community.
This season, the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project is collaborating with the Town of Oliver to trial gleaning in the community and fulfill an objective from the Food Secure Oliver plan. “This project makes a lot of sense for Oliver, as one of the goals in the Food Action Plan is to recover high-quality food to sell and/or donate. Another is to launch a pilot Food Exchange Program to provide a central place where people can bring and take surplus garden or farm products which we are currently doing with the Harvest Hut. These two opportunities mesh well together and will connect local food with local people,” Caitlyn Bennett, Food Action Coordinator, Town of Oliver.
If you have more fruit or produce than you can manage, or if you would like to volunteer, please visit www.fruittreeproject.com to register.