This autumn, La Cañada Flintridge residents with fruit trees in their yards can grow some goodwill by participating in the local community center’s new Community Harvest program. By connecting homeowners with volunteer fruit-pickers, the program, which will get underway in a few weeks, aims to provide a local food bank with fresh produce while helping fruit-tree owners reduce waste.
FOR THE RECORD: This story has been updated from an earlier version to make a clarification in the lede.
Monica DeMoulin, who is coordinating the program, said that it just makes sense.
“All this food is growing in our own backyard, and then we have neighbors in the town next door that don’t have enough food in their refrigerators. It was just screaming out as something that was right here in front of us,” said DeMoulin. “We just needed to put the pieces together.”
DeMoulin said she spearheaded an initial community harvest program in La Cañada Flintridge in April and May with her daughter, Olivia, as a community service project for Olivia’s Girl Scout Troop.
During the initial project, the troop and other volunteers collected and donated more than 1,700 pounds of fruit to the Foothill Unity Center in Pasadena, according to DeMoulin.
Inspired by a similar project that was based in Monrovia, DeMoulin partnered with the Monrovia Community Center to bring the concept to this city.
“When I stumbled upon what the Monrovia Community Center was doing, I thought, ‘Wow, we could really do that here in La Cañada,’” said DeMoulin. “So we used their picking supplies, and they already had liability coverage.”
Kathie Harb said that since her yard contains approximately 15 fruit trees, having the community harvest volunteers visit her household was great.
“We have so much fruit and it falls to the ground — it was the perfect solution for the waste," said Harb. “[The volunteers] had it under control, they brought their own tools, own bags … it was a win-win situation.”
DeMoulin said it was this enthusiasm from participants that led to her coordinate another community harvest.
“The reason why I took it to the next level was because it was so successful,” she said. “Everybody that was involved in it was so excited about it that even more friends, and people with kids in other organizations, wanted to get involved.”
Having already coordinated a program with La Cañada homeowners and volunteers, DeMoulin decided to partner with the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge.
“By basing it in our community center here, we could continue to make it grow as part of the fabric of our community,” said DeMoulin. “The Community Center is already an established part of the La Cañada community and La Cañada culture. And they have established relationships with the different community organizations and volunteers and homeowners.”
Albert Rodriguez, food distribution coordinator at the Foothill Unity Center, said that fruit donations helped complete the comprehensive grocery deliveries the center makes to needy families.
“People love getting fresh fruit,” said Rodriguez. “This is just such a great healthy snack for our children and for our adults.”
Rodriguez said that DeMoulin’s community harvest program was one of a few sources of fresh fruit for the food bank, along with donations from the nonprofit Fruit for All.
“When these other programs are able to bring in fruit, we’re able to give a good variety; and not only that, but you can only get so much from one organization,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said if more people got involved with community harvest programs, it would be a boon to food banks.
“Someone came in once and told me, ‘Food doesn’t grow on trees.’ Yes it does, we just need to make sure we pick that fruit and bring it to our pantries,” Rodriguez said.
For DeMoulin, it was easy to see the positive impact of the community harvest.
“Look at how much benefit there is all around, for the homeowners, for giving volunteers great projects to do, and of course for the people getting the food,” she said. “It’s definitely something that could grow here and be part of our community.”
La Cañada Flintridge residents with fruit trees who wish to participate can sign up at www.cclcf.org or by emailing email@example.com