At this time of year, gardens in Edmonton are overflowing with vegetables, and ripe fruits are weighing down backyard trees and bushes – but what do you do when there’s too much? Help a local non-profit by donating what you can’t eat.
Meals on Wheels
For the last few years, the Wrathall family has been donating vegetables and herbs to Meals on Wheels.
“They provide meals for people who, due to health or aging issues, can no longer prepare their meals,” explained volunteer Cal Wrathall.
Cal and his wife Jean Wrathall are part of the Grow-a-Row programs at Meals on Wheels, and with the help of the Highlands Community Garden, they donate a plot and seeds especially for the non-profit.
“Cal and my grandchildren have helped harvest peas, beans, beets, carrots, parsley, dill – and the beet leaves also go to Meals on Wheels because they put them in their soups,” explained Jean.
So far this year, the non-profit has already collected around 600 lbs. of donations, which the chefs at Meals on Wheels use to make about 200 meals a day, according to Cal. He said they can always use more donations – whether it be fruit or vegetables.
“If you have garden produce, don’t let the apples fall on the ground, don’t let things go rotten – Meals on Wheels will take and use most things.”
As a volunteer driver delivering the meals, Cal knows how much the food is appreciated.
“I see the faces of those people who are hungry and that can’t look after themselves,” he said. “Very seldom do I get out the door without a thank you, sometimes a tear.”
Over the years, Cal and Jean have brought their grandchildren with them to the garden, teaching them about giving back to the community.
“Not everything needs to be a paid endeavor. They can give to people and make a difference in their lives in small ways.”
Donations can be dropped off during the week at 11111 103 Avenue.
Operation Fruit Rescue
If you’re not up to the task of picking all the fruit on your property, Operation Fruit Rescue can help with that.
“For people to let their food go to waste, it’s kind of a shame,” explained president Joshua Buck. “There’s so many great things you can do with that fruit, it has a lot of potential.”
It sends volunteers to collect unwanted fruit growing in people’s yards.
“Our volunteers pay a small membership fee and get access to just about 1,000 different locations across the city where they can go and pick all kinds of different fruit – everything from rhubarb, to bush berries, to apples.”
Buck said the cost for an individual to join is $20, while families can take part for $35.
Fruit is then split between various groups.
“Everyone involved gets a quarter of the fruit, the volunteers get to keep a quarter of the fruit, the landowner gets to keep a quarter of the fruit, we give a quarter to local charities such as the Food Bank or the Bissell Centre, and then Operation Fruit Rescue sometimes takes a quarter of the fruit for demonstrations.”
Buck explained that the picker often goes home with more than a quarter of the fruit, because either the homeowner or the fruit rescue doesn’t need it.
At this time of year, Operation Fruit Rescue is in desperate need of manpower.
“Right now we have many fruit picks that are going unpicked because we only have 112 volunteers.”
The non-profit also teaches classes on what to do with the fruit you collect, including how to press it into juice.
If you have too many vegetables in your garden, the Hope Mission would love to take them off your hands.
“Every time we serve dinner or lunch we have fresh soups, fresh salads, stir-frys, and all of those can make use of fresh vegetables when we have them,” said spokesperson Robin Padanyi.
Each day, the mission serves more than 1,000 hot meals to Edmonton’s homeless. The staff are always grateful for nutritious produce.
“The chefs and the staff here are incredibly versatile, they’ll take the food that is donated and work it into our menu, just to make sure the people have healthy food.”
Hope Mission accepts donations during the week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., ideally in cardboard boxes, at 9908 106 Avenue.