These volunteers want to make sure no one in the Okanagan goes hungry - InfoNews

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These volunteers want to make sure no one in the Okanagan goes hungry

Image Credit: Okanagan Tree Fruit Project
September 22, 2019 - 12:00 PM

KELOWNA - Christina Wist is dedicated to sharing the wealth when it comes to Okanagan food.

She’s the Central Okanagan coordinator for the Okanagan Tree Fruit Project as well as the coordinator for the Good Food Box.

“My gut instinct is to try to feed people,” Wist told iNFOnews.ca.

She started her career as a dietician with a First Nations in Saskatchewan but came to the Okanagan and joined the tree fruit project two years ago. It started in 2012 and has picked about 310,000 pounds of fruit and produce since then.

The project is, essentially, run online where people with fruit trees or gardens can register. Wist then emails the 800 volunteer pickers and usually gets about 15 for each job.

The owners can keep up to one-third of the picked fruit, volunteers take a share and, whatever’s left is distributed to 50 organizations throughout the Okanagan.

“We’re working together so no one in the Okanagan goes hungry,” Wist said.

Out of the 800 volunteers on her email list, there’s a core group of about 100 who pick regularly and another couple of hundred who come more casually.

And she’s always on the lookout for more people with fruit.

“There’s a lot of people who want their fruit picked but we’re not getting as many calls this year as last year and we didn’t get as many calls last year as the year before,” Wist said. “It’s a good time to remind everybody that we are a service that is available and we’re out there if they’ve got extra fruit or produce.”

In the South Okanagan, there seem to be more orchards being picked where they’ll average 2,000 lbs. a pick, usually getting lower grade fruit that’s not destined for grocery stores. In the Central Okanagan, it seems to be more people with a tree or two who register.

Okanagan Tree Fruit Project has merged with the Central Okanagan Community Garden Society and has two volunteer-run farms – one in Winfield and one in Kelowna – to grow produce for distribution to the organizations they support.

On Oct. 4 and 5 they will do a massive pick in a Summerland orchard. That fruit will be juiced and offered for sale on the group's website. The event serves as their main fundraiser for the year but they do get support from the Central Okanagan Foundation and the City of Kelowna.

“It’s a harvest festival, almost a celebration of the harvest,” Wist said.

GOOD FOOD BOX

This project started about a year ago and is separate from the tree fruit project.

The idea here is to provide affordable produce for Kelowna residents. Each person can buy a box of produce for $15 (or $20 if they want to donate to the project). Orders have to be received by the second and fourth Mondays of each month for delivery the following Friday.

There are five pickup spots including two at or near the UBC Okanagan campus to appeal to students.

The produce is sourced locally whenever possible. Out of season produce is bought through local suppliers. People don’t have a say on what’s in each food box but they can leave behind what they don’t want and swap for other veggies that may have been left by others.

Currently, it’s a small scale operation with only about 50 boxes purchased each delivery day.

WHERE DO THESE PROJECTS COME FROM?

While separate operations, both projects originated with the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council. The food box is run through the council while the tree fruit project is a non-profit society of its own.

The council started in 2010 and is made up of volunteers promoting food security in the Central Okanagan.

To volunteer, share or donate go the Okanagan Tree Fruit Project website here.

For more information about the Good Food Box program go here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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