CAWSTON —; The Okanagan Tree Fruit Project estimates that tens of thousands of produce gets wasted every year in the valley. But the organization is striving to reduce the amount of waste by picking what gardeners and growers leave behind.
“This project is a win-win-win. It’s great for the owners of the property because the food isn’t wasted; it’s good for the volunteers they get to help the community and get some free produce; and the local charities all benefit,” says Deb Thorneycroft, the south Okanagan coordinator for the project.
Last year in the south Okanagan, 6,000 pounds of fresh produce was picked. Thorneycroft believes the central Okanagan branch was able to collect even more.
The project launched in 2012 and it’s continued to grow every year. There’s currently 300 volunteers, attracting people from throughout the valley and even from the Kootenays.
“I’m passionate about helping people,” says Bernadette Otto, a volunteer from Midway. “I’m also passionate about the fact that we shouldn’t be throwing food away that’s still good. There’s still a lot of people who are hungry.”
The organization delivers fresh produce to more than 20 charities in the central and south Okanagan, including the local food banks.
“It’s great because we tend to get a lot of non-perishable products so when we can get those extra things like the vegetables and fruits, it really helps everyone get better nutrition and they really appreciate getting those extra things,” says Joey Cyr, a supervisor at the food bank in Penticton.
The Okanagan Tree Fruit Project’s charitable work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Last week, Microsoft provided it with a laptop, tool shed, ladder and buckets so it can continue growing.
With better equipment, Thorneycroft says the group is ready to take on harvest season and collect what growers don’t want.
If you’d like the volunteers to pick through your orchard or garden, contact Thorneycroft at: 250-328-2895.