In a year that has, so far, been filled with challenges, Mother Nature has come through with a bumper apple crop and LUSH Valley Food Action Society is hoping to turn some of that fruit into much-needed funding.
LUSH Valley’s Fruit Tree Project mobilizes volunteers to harvest fruit from backyards, farms and even public areas, such as land owned by the Town of Comox. Once picked, one-third is given to the volunteers, one-third to the home- or land-owner (if they want it), and one-third is put into LUSH Valley’s ‘Good Food Box’ healthy food hampers, as well as to a number of community partners.
“It’s a win-win situation,” explains LUSH Valley’s food access manager, James McKerricher. “The Fruit Tree Project ensures that good food doesn’t go to waste and people don’t go hungry. Picking fruit from the trees and cleaning up windfall also lessens incidents of wildlife encounters and helps keep our communities – and wildlife – safe.
“Not all of the apples are ‘Grade A’ and suitable for eating or cooking,” adds McKerricher. “So, for the past five years, we have taken all of the ‘Grade B’ apples, and some pears, and have had them pressed, pasteurized and packaged into five-litre juice boxes by a local company called Pressing Matter. We sell our ‘Backyard Blend’ juice boxes for $20 each with net proceeds supporting our various community food security initiatives.”
LUSH’s goal this year is to produce at least 500 five-litre boxes of Backyard Blend. Of this, 250 boxes will be distributed to their community partners and clients and 250 will be for sale as a general fundraiser.
“It is also important to note that fruit that is not suitable for consumption or juicing is given to local farmers to feed livestock or to compost – nothing is wasted,” says McKerricher.
This year, not being able to sell the juice at various events due to the pandemic could have affected the success of the Backyard Blend fundraiser, however, a number of local retailers have stepped up to help. The 100 per cent pure apple juice, with no chemical additives, can now be purchased at several locations including:
● Courtenay: The Butchers Block, Atlas Cafe and Blue Spruce Ice Cream
● Courtenay rural: Seal Bay Farm
● Comox: Benino Gelato
● Black Creek: Community Centre & Shorewolf Farm
● Cumberland: Seeds Food Market
● Royston: Royston Roasting Coffee.
Individuals or business owners who would like to purchase juice in larger quantities may do so by calling the LUSH Valley temporary warehouse at 250-207-LUSH (5874). The juice boxes are shelf-stable until opened and then they need to be refrigerated.