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Fruit for the less fortunate

From golden plums to cherries and apples, fruit growing on trees in backyards around Kelowna is no longer going to waste thanks to the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project.

The Non-Profit initiative turns unwanted fruit from backyard trees into a valuable food source for those less fortunate in the community.

Every year there is an incredible amount of fruit from backyard trees that goes to waste says the project’s President Casey Hamilton.

“We see it rotting on the ground and that is basically one of the rationals for why a program like this needs to exist in the valley.”

There are programs similar to the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project all over North America, according to Hamilton, who says it only makes sense to have the same kind of initiative in the interior, where some of the best fruit is grown.

“There is also a lot of people in the community who cannot afford to purchase any food, so it’s a match made in heaven.”

The project started three years ago by a group of local residents who wanted to work towards food security in the region. In its first year, the group picked 5,000 pounds and since then they've been bringing in more fruit every year.

“The second season, last year, we did 17,000 lbs (and) our goal this year is to do 20,000 lbs,” she explains. “Our volunteer list has grown tremendously we have new people signing up every day, we have tree owners calling almost everyday.”

Operating from the start of cherry season all the way into apple season, which can go until November, the project donates the fruit to over 20 charities in the Central Okanagan.

“Especially in the season’ (where fruit) is so abundant, it is just an added bonus to have fresh fruit like this to give the clients that these organizations serve.”

Run solely by volunteers, the fruit tree project aims to bring like-minded individuals together who are interested in food related issues. However, Hamilton says they've had several tourists who heard about the project and contacted the organization to come pick fruit during their vacation. These people wanted to have a real Okanagan experience, while giving back to the community they are visiting.

Carole Bridges and her husband Wayne have lived in the Okanagan for 40 years and are two of the volunteers who spend their time picking fruit from Kelowna resident’s backyards that would otherwise go to waste.

“I hate going by trees where the fruit has all fallen to the ground and it is being totally wasted,” says Carole. “This is a great way to get home owners to get their fruit picked and it goes to people who really need it.”

Home owners who contact the project to have their trees picked, usually do so because they are out of town on holidays and don’t want it to go to waste or it’s too much fruit for their family to consume, or just because they don’t wish to tend to the fruit themselves according to Hamilton.

If you are interesting in volunteering or have a tree in your yard with  more fruit than you can handle contact the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project at the email www.fruittreeproject.com or check out their Facebook page.

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