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Street Harvest

By Rowena Booker    Rowena works for the Victorian Relief Food Bank

We all hate to throw out excess produce from our backyard but there really is a point where we realise that we just have too much and we don’t know what to do with it all.  Sometimes it’s even hard to give fruit and vegetables away. A bounty of quinces can only make so much jelly, lemons are great to have around but you can’t freeze them, peaches really are a short-lived fruit and no one likes a wrinkly apple.

A new pilot project, Street Harvest, is currently rolling out on the streets of Wodonga and is set to take advantage of excess backyard produce. Excess fruit and vegetables will be harvested from residential gardens and distributed amongst neighbours and food relief community organisations such as Wodonga Uniting Care.

The idea is the brainchild of VicReliefFoodbank Wodonga representative, Catherine Byrne, after looking over the fence at her neighbour’s fruit laden trees. Catherine thought about the large quantity of fruit and vegetables that were left to rot in residential gardens and wondered how she could tap into that waste. She also wanted to encourage neighbours to share the produce and donate any excess to emergency food relief.

Her solution was Street Harvest, a scheme which involves volunteer “street champions”, who map residential gardens with excess produce. Street champion, Michelle Dowell said she heard about the project through her local neighbourhood house in Wodonga and was immediately motivated to volunteer. She identifies households willing to donate produce, estimates when that produce needs to be harvested, and organises its collection.

Produce donated to the Street Harvest project is used in school breakfast programs, community kitchens, and is also distributed in food relief parcels. The Street Harvest project is also aiding the local community in controlling fruit fly, which costs Australian fruit growers $100 million a year in lost income. Over-ripe and rotting fruit decomposing in backyards is one of the main sources of outbreaks.

The Street Harvest project aims to help the 8.3% of Wodonga residents currently experiencing food insecurity, including the unemployed, the homeless, the elderly and families living under extreme financial stress. This semester Wodonga TAFE hospitality students are preparing and packaging meals from excess produce. The course is called Food for Thought. The packaged meals are then returned to Wodonga Foodshare and given out to people experiencing hardship.

To find out more about Street Harvest contact Catherine Byrne on 0437 001 819 or email streetharvest.wodonga@vrfb.com.au