Students harvest food for community

February 22, 2011

Students celebrating their harvested fruit from their first house, over 220 lbs! Clockwise from top left: Manuel Gomez, Lidia Villasenor, Jose Villasenor, Janai Robinson, James Daniels, Pete Green, Dominique Villanueva, Janelle Robinson and Jessica Muldrew.

By Ramona Mosley

Nearly 900 pounds of citrus fruit is making its way to the tables of many hungry Stockton families, thanks to Healthy Choices, a program of the Health Education Council. The YMCA’s Healthy Choices afterschool group at Franklin High School has been spending their afternoons harvesting fruit from citrus trees in the Eastside neighborhood surrounding Franklin High School.

The Healthy Choices students decided to do something about all of the unused citrus they saw around their neighborhood after doing a community mapping project to assess the healthy and unhealthy food sources available.

“We harvest the fruit because we went to the community and seen that the stores did not have fruit at all,” said Healthy Choices senior Janelle Robinson.

The project began with the students canvassing the neighborhood, passing out flyers and talking to neighbors, asking them if they would be willing to donate their fruit to shelters and local food distribution sites. Most of the neighbors have been responsive and are happy to get the excess fruit off their hands and donated to those who need fresh fruit. Janelle remembers “one community member said there was fruit that needed to be picked because they were being thrown at cars and they were going to waste.”

Even when living in a designated “food desert,” an area with low accessibility to healthy foods, such as Eastside Stockton, there are small ways to challenge that label, like harvesting the fruit of the neighborhood trees. Many of the Healthy Choices students talk about the struggles their families face with diabetes and obesity. They are beginning to see that with a little work, they can access healthier foods without trekking to a supermarket.

“These little actions are the first steps to preventing the cycle of diabetes and obesity in their families and their communities,” states Aly Kronic, Coordinator of Healthy Choices project.

Boxes of tangerines, navel oranges, meyer lemons, blood oranges, and grapefruits were filled and donated to St. Mary’s Interfaith Dining Room, St. Mary’s Family Shelter, the Emergency Food Bank and Garden Acres Community Center.

The students are determined to surpass 1000 pounds of fruit. They are waiting out the rainy weather and planning to harvest the last of the fruit in early March.

If you have excess fruit on your citrus tree that you would like harvested or would like to help volunteer with Healthy Choices, please contact the Healthy Choices coordinator, Aly Kronick at (916) 556-3344 or akronick@healthedcouncil.org.

Ramona Mosley is a project director for the Health Education Council, which is funded by the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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