For years, a dedicated group of volunteers called the Fruit Hui has tirelessly maintained the research orchard at CTAHR’s Urban Garden Center in Pearl City. Rain or shine, they show up, typically harvesting over 200 pounds of fresh tropical fruit per week, picked at the peak of ripeness. Since these trees are maintained for research projects, not for their produce, the volunteers donate all excess fruit to the Hawaii Foodbank. In 2019, they volunteered some 9,000 hours, collecting 14,000 pounds of fresh and nutritious food for Hawai‘i’s hungry!
The group of long-term volunteers plans to continue to harvest weekly, since access to fresh food has become even more critical during the COVID-19 crisis. However, they’re being careful to make adjustments to their routine as necessary.
Volunteer Susie Ota explains they now allow only one person to ride in the garden’s cart at a time, while the rest walk to and from and within the orchard, in order to maintain six-foot social distancing from each other. They carry a jug of water for hand washing, as well a bottle of hand sanitizer, and each wears disposable gloves that are changed with each activity, from harvesting to sanitation. They enter the field office one at a time to sign in and out, and only one at a time delivers the fruit to the Foodbank.
Extensiom agent Kalani Matsumura says, “During this difficult time, they have stepped up their efforts to provide the community with a valuable source of nutritious food, continuing to deliver food to those in need while following best practices recommended by CTAHR food safety experts to minimize risks due to coronavirus.”