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Once-wasted local fruit goes to feed hungry

Dairy Creek Community Food Web members harvested apples last fall during a trial run of their harvesting gatherings. Dairy Creek Community Food Web (DCCFW) members are tired of seeing fruit fall to the ground knowing there are hungry people in the community.

That’s why they’ve started their fruit-gleaning project, which connects fruit-tree owners with those in need of fresh produce.

Inspired by the nonprofit organization Portland Fruit Tree Project model — which organizes the harvest and distribution of produce that would otherwise be wasted from private fruit trees — DCCFW is kicking off its own harvesting program this summer.

DCCFW is using $2,171 from a city of Forest Grove Community Enhancement Program grant to purchase pickers, ladders, buckets and a computer for keeping track of harvesters and fruit locations. The group is currently looking for fruit-tree owners, volunteer harvesters and team leaders who are willing to participate in a training.

A single tree can produce hundreds of pounds of fruit and is often more than one homeowner can use, leaving much of that fresh food to fall to the ground and go to waste. The gleaning project identifies local property owners who have produce to spare and matches them with those in need. DCCFW member Robin Lindsley helped pick apples last year.

Volunteer harvesters get to keep half of the fruit they pick and must donate the other half to a local food pantry. Half of the volunteer pickers must self-identify as low income.

Fresh fruit is often more expensive in stores than processed foods, leaving low-income people with less access to healthy food. The project provides equal access to fruit, said Robin Lindsley of DCCFW.

So far, local residents have been excited about the project, Lindsley said: “People are so eager to not see the waste.”

About 15 want-to-be harvesters and four tree owners have signed up to participate.

Two practice harvests in October went well, Lindsley said, and resulted in pounds of fruit and squash inundating local pantries.

A meeting for those who are interested will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, at St. Bede's Episcopal Church, 1609 Elm St. in Forest Grove. DCCFW members are also in the process of setting up a free preserving class that will cover safe canning, drying and freezing of fruits. Email dccfoodweb@gmail or call 971-713-5679 for more information.

Members of the Dairy Creek Community Food Web harvested fruit last fall to donate to local pantries.