Existing Produce Delivery Route Doubles as a Way to Bring Discounted Organic Fruit to Non-Profits and Feeding Programs Across the State.
Summer fruit harvest in the Central Valley means farmers are working fourteen hour days, fruit packing sheds are busy around the clock, and peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots are everywhere you look.
And while most of that fruit ends up on a grocery store shelf to delight customers across the country and the world, cosmetically challenged fruit—with defects in appearance but otherwise perfect—can become an underutilized resource, according to Vernon Peterson, who runs the Homegrown fruit packing facility in Kingsburg, California.
Finding the best use for that resource, Vernon says is, “Just another part of why we’re here. We need to look at all of our resources as God’s resources and ask, ‘How can we use them in the most responsible way?’”
Among the resources Vernon has at his disposal is a system for delivering produce across the state, through Abundant Harvest Organics, his CSA-style farm share service that weekly brings organic fruits and vegetables to over ninety communities in California from San Diego to Redding.
Those two resources combined, trucking and available fruit, have turned what started a few summers ago as an informal agreement between Vernon and a representative of SOVA Community Food and Resource Program in Los Angeles into an annual statewide program that makes fresh organic fruit available for charitable causes at the greatly reduced price of ten cents a pound.
“Through Abundant Harvest our truck is already in those towns, we’ve already paid to get the truck there. If there’s room on the truck and if we have product here, why shouldn’t we get nutritious organic food into the inner-city for a dime a pound?” Vernon said.
Vernon’s daughter Heather Mondello, who is the Abundant Harvest operations director, coordinates the charity fruit program. She agrees saying, “We’d rather support our community and see the cosmetically challenged fruit go to a great cause and give good nutrition to somebody who needs it.”
The charity fruit program is open to any group with a good cause and a representative willing to meet the truck to pick up the fruit and return old fruit crates. Churches, rescue missions, soup kitchens, community centers, nursery schools, and other non-profits with charitable feeding programs can send in a weekly order, which will be delivered when the Abundant Harvest trucks drop off fruit and veggie boxes in their communities.
The charity fruit is sourced from a group of about fifteen to twenty stone fruit growers who pack their fruit at the Homegrown packing shed in Kingsburg. In 2014, Homegrown growers donated 28,890 pounds of fruit to over fifteen organizations across the state.