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Fruit that would otherwise rot on the ground is boosting the larders of local foodbanks.
Auckland woman Di Celliers came up with the Community Fruit Harvesting concept in 2011 and now the idea has ripened in an least nine other centres. In greater Wellington, Julie Harris has taken the initiative.
Owners of trees laden with grapefruit, lemons, apples, pears, feijoas and the like in Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti are calling up, but "not a one" from the Hutt Valley.
"We're getting into pip fruit harvesting season now and I'm keen to get support from the Hutt region," Ms Harris says.
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 picked in the Hutt Valley going to local foodbanks.
But it needs local pickers to step foward. 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 [that could otherwise go to waste]. 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 trollies of many families getting food grants from [Work & Income] 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 empty houses/those 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 "the height of a telegraph pole.
"There is at least 60 kilograms 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 that there is an hour or two of picking needed to be done.
Ms Harris says she has enough people to turn fruit into jam and preserves, "but I always need more pickers".
"Picking can be healthy outdoor fun for families, kids, caravanners, neighbourhood picking bees . . . Neighbourhood Awareness Week is coming up."
The Facebook alert will let pickers know if the site is too steep for children, or the owner doesn't want dogs on the property.
Awareness is only starting to spread but quantities dealt with are already large.
A Waikanae family recently delivered to Ms Harris' garage 45 kilograms of grapefruit they'd picked from just two trees in their back yard.
"We're now talking truck loads of fruit."
Calls are coming from former orchardists in the Wairarapa "so I've got fruit coming from over the hill. It seems strange to me there's nothing from the Hutt Valley".
Contact pickfruitnthwellington @gmail.com, visit pickfruit.co.nz or ring Ms Harris 027 240 6606.
- Hutt News