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United Way's Fallen Fruit project wants your produce overflow

Harvest Algoma will start accepting donations of fresh produce at the beginning of September
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If you enjoy growing your own produce in the summer and have an overflow of fruits and vegetables, there's a way you can help the community as the United Way prepares to launch the annual Harvest Algoma Food Resource Center Fallen Fruit project. 

The centre will accepting donations of fresh produce for a two- to three-week period starting in the beginning of September. 

“The project was started a few years ago by some local community members who were tired of seeing perfectly good food go to waste,” said Jessica Laidley, food resource centre manager for United Way Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District. “With the help of volunteers, they approached local homeowners to rescue the food that would otherwise rot in their yard.”

“We made sure to clear up any confusion with Algoma Public Health when the project started about the safety of locally donated produce from private and community gardens, fruit trees, and other locally grown sources. We accept donations of fresh food every summer and we’d like to see a movement grow across the community to share what’s in abundance,” Laidley said. 

The United Way hopes to resurrect the Fallen Fruit project this year, after not being able to operate in 2020 due to COVID-19. 

“COVID-19 was a challenge for everything we did last year,” Laidley said. “Typically, Fallen Fruit would bring teams of volunteers together to harvest fruit, drive in the same cars, and have a good time. In the summer and fall of last year, this just wasn’t an option and people were afraid.”

With immunization rates now increasing, Harvest Algoma is anticipating that the project can go ahead as normal this fall. 

“We have 13 food banks and 32 social service organizations that we support, including Salvation Army, St. Vincent Place, Soup Kitchen Sault Ste. Marie, and others,” Laidley said. 

“A lot of what we do here is to educate people about food and encourage them to reimagine how they look at their food. We as a community, and across the world, waste food. We are looking at ways to encourage people to look inside their community at food that is perfectly fine and available to share with others,” she said. 

United Way’s Harvest Algoma will accept any fresh produce Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Connect the Dots Community Harvest also accepts donations every Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mill Market. 

If you would like someone to come and harvest your produce for you, Harvest Algoma will be coordinating teams of volunteers to do so in the coming weeks. To be added to the list, email Deron or call 705-253-0273 ext. 201. 

Since opening, Harvest Algoma Food Resource Centre has received 1.3 million pounds of food worth approximately $8 million. Harvest Algoma currently provides in excess of 1,000 prepared meals per week. 

“We encourage people to donate wherever they can. They can connect to any food bank or social service organization. We also start accepting donations early in the spring when some of the berries start to become available. So we’re around most of the year doing food rescue projects,” Laidley said.