Fruitful initiative bringing community benefits
Community Fruit Harvesting may have started small, but its effect within communities in New Zealand has continued to grow – so much so that the group won the Mitre 10 Community of the Year Award in the 2016 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards.
The brainchild of Diane Celliers, Community Fruit Harvesting (CFH) began in June 2011 as a local North Shore initiative, picking spare, unwanted fruit from backyards and orchards that would otherwise go to waste. And while reducing wastage is an important part of what they do, the group's first priority continues to be redirecting the fruit to those who need it the most; the underprivileged.
As much of the freshly harvested fruit as possible is delivered to charitable organisations, foodbanks, refuge centres and schools; while the rest is made into jams, marmalades and preserves – ensuring that no fruit is wasted through spoilage. So far this year the volunteers have picked some 30,000kgs of fresh fruit and made around 5,000 jars of preserves.
Over the last five years the group has grown remarkably; there are now nearly 500 volunteers in the Auckland area alone, and teams of volunteers across the country from Kaipara to Wanaka. This has led to CFH collaborating more with other groups in and around Auckland, as well as other cities and orchards across New Zealand. And there has been 55% growth in the last year in the number of orchards and backyards volunteers have been able to pick fruit, increasing to 394 in Auckland.
Events include group sessions with individuals or staff from companies on the art of preserving, as well as the annual "The Big Squeeze", which involves using harvested citrus fruits to make cordials. "Somehow e managed to make 440 bottles in about 6 hours!" says Di.
Di is also extremely passionate about the social and community aspect that Community Fruit Harvesting brings. Not only do they actively promote and teach preserve making, she says she's finding more and more that the group is helping to bring people in the community together, particularly elderly people and new immigrants who may not otherwise find company very easily.
"What we do at Community Fruit Harvesting is hugely rewarding and I couldn't be more proud of what we have achieved as a team.
"The concept of each person doing one small thing then adds up to the group producing amazing results. We strongly encourage people to share their fruit and learn to use their fruit in order to make a difference within their community."