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City grant helping to reduce fresh fruit and produce waste

South Okanagan volunteers harvested over 500 pounds of organic seedless grapes at a farm in the Similkameen, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.
Image Credit: Facebook/Okanagan Fruit Tree Project

PENTICTON - A City of Penticton grant is helping to reduce the amount of food wasted during the abundant summer months.

The Okanagan Fruit Tree Project says the $7,000 grant has allowed the hiring of a part time coordinator to increase the amount of overproduced food redistributed to those in need.

Coordinator Deb Thorneycroft says 300 volunteers are working throughout the Central and South Okanagan this year to harvest extra fruit and produce in the valley. The project has not expanded to Oliver and Osoyoos and the Similkameen yet, but eventually hope to.

“We’ve picked 6,000 lbs of fruit so far this year, after getting off to a late start,” Thorneycroft says. Project volunteers have picked four harvests of grapes, apricots, and prune plums. She says there is a huge need locally, with the food bank alone saying they could use up to 500 lbs of fruit and produce per day.

The project’s aim is to bring people together through the harvesting of local food, using a simple premise. Volunteers pick extra fruit from backyard fruit trees and donate it to charitable community groups, with a portion of the fruit going to the volunteers and tree owners.

The organization adopted the Penticton Fruit Tree Project in 2014, expanding the reach of the project beyond the Central Okanagan in a bid to pick more fruit, address local food insecurity and promote stronger communities. The Penticton project originally began with a small group of volunteers who ran the program from 2010 to 2012.

Each year, thousands of pounds of fruit, nuts and produce go to waste in the Okanagan Valley as abandoned orchards, residents growing more food than they can use, and bumper crops create an over abundance of food, much of which often goes to waste.

Last year more than 6,000 pounds of fruit picked from orchards surrounding Penticton was given to the Salvation Army and the Soupateria.

In the Central Okanagan,  more than 30,000 pounds of fruit found its way to those in need.

The Okanagan Fruit Tree Project has been expanding every year, adding volunteers, and increasing the number of producers offering extra produce and fruit. The organization is constantly seeking additional supplies such as ladders, plastic totes and picking buckets. Cash and in kind donations are welcome as well.

If you have more produce or fruit than you can manage, or if you would like to volunteer, call or text Penticton Coordinator Deb Thorneycroft at 250-328-2895, or email

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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