Wanted: Apple pickers for food shelves

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Photo courtesy of Fruits of the City

As volunteer gigs go, this is one of the stranger ones.

Twin Cities based Fruits of the City is looking for Minnesotans to pick apples and pears… in other people’s backyards.

“All they really need is to show up,” said Jared Walhowe, coordinator of the program for The Minnesota Project. “We encourage them to bring water and bug spray. Long pants and sturdy shoes are good.”

Starting in mid-August, volunteers will fan out across the seven-county metro area, harvesting fruit that would otherwise go to waste. It’s just one of several projects in the state, including Good to Grow and the Garden Gleaning Project, that seek to capture extra produce for Minnesota food shelves.

Fruits of the City provides the boxes, the ten-foot pole pickers. Organizers also take care of getting the fruit to the food shelves — often by packing their own cars full of apples.

The group picks surplus at orchards, too. It partners with a local food bank to transport large harvests.

Last year more than 31,000 pounds of produce landed in metro food shelves. The shelves say they are eager to receive the fresh fruit to supplement the much more common donations of pasta or canned goods.

“We’ve seen a growing need over the years for food in food shelves… especially for healthy foods and fresh foods,” said Walhowe. “A lot of food shelves are starting to make a change toward fresher foods, toward fruits and vegetables.”

Fruits of the City just posted its first call of the season for volunteer gleaners. The group is also looking for homeowners and orchards to register their trees for harvest. Many homeowners will register just a single apple tree.

Without the project, most of the fruit would go uneaten.

“A lot of it would just fall,” Walhowe said. And rot.

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