Volunteers harvest fruit for those in need

Champaign Williams

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The Institute for Sustainability hosted an orange harvesting event at CSUN’s Orange Grove on Sunday.

Food Forward, an organization committed to picking, donating and distributing fruit in the local areas, partnered with CSUN to host the event.

Max Kanter, Food Forward volunteer manager, said that the company has been harvesting oranges from CSUN’s grove for more than four years.

“We’ve brought out 300 volunteers to harvest the oranges for three food banks,” Kanter said.

Buckets and boxes were loaded with 40 pounds of oranges and carried to the Food Forward van. Oldies music played in the background, complementing the blend of laughter, conversation, and oranges being plucked from trees and tossed into donation buckets.

Rick Namhais, founder and executive director of the Food Forward organization, said he would like to break their harvesting record of 18,000 pounds.

“Think 19,000 you guys,” Namhais said to a group of volunteers retrieving their fruit picking supplies. “We had a great morning, so we’re just going to power through and keep going.”

The orange picking began at 9 a.m., and by noon as the volunteers had collectively gathered more than 9,000 pounds of oranges. Namhais was pleased with the number of CSUN student volunteers that participated in the harvest this year and said that he had never seen so many students volunteer before.

“It’s a pleasure to have this relationship work so smoothly,” Nahamis said. “We so value the partnership with Sarah Johnson and the Sustainability Institute, and we really appreciate all of the support.”

Volunteers from Starbucks, Bank of America, Girl Scout Troupe’s and other organizations were invited to participate in the orange picking festivities.

Starbucks supplied free ice coffee and tea to quench the thirst of volunteers throughout the day, and Son of a Bun and Dog Channel sold hotdogs and drinks to hungry workers from their food trucks.

Members of the Norte Dame High School water polo team also volunteered to pick oranges.

“Our water polo team is trying to take a trip to Barcelona, so we are trying to get one hundred hours of Christian (community) service each,” said Eddie Dabys, a junior at the high school.

The team is scheduled to visit Spain in August to practice and learn from other water polo teams in the area. For every hour of community service, they are each awarded $15 from a private benefactor. Each team member must raise a total of $3,000 to cover the expenses of the 12-day trip.

Food Forward will be donating the produce to Valley Food Bank, SOVA Food Pantry and MEND Poverty Food Bank. The three food banks will distribute the produce to those in need.