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Minnesota woman gives apples to food bank

November 10, 2018
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Channel One Food Bank volunteer Ann Farrell reaches for apples at a Northeast Rochester, Minn., home where a team of volunteers gleaned apples from about 30 trees Monday, October 29, 2018. (Ken Klotzbach/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — A gentle thud can be heard every time an apple from one of Kelsey Johnson’s 30 backyard trees falls and hits the ground.

But the northwest Rochester homeowner said she can’t possibly use all of the thousands of Honeycrisps and Connell Reds.

“I would hate for any of this to go to waste,” Johnson told the Post-Bulletin . “Sure, the deer eat them, but they don’t need 4,000 apples.”

So, when a friend suggested she give Channel One Food Bank a call, she thought that was a perfect fit.

“Before I had my two young ones, I was a single mom and I was on assistance and went to food banks,” she said. “But that was a decade ago, and they didn’t have fresh fruit. So, when I heard they took fresh fruit, I thought, ‘How awesome that they give access to that too — something that’s healthy.’”

Johnson had started to pick and bring them in herself, estimating that she bagged 2,000 apples a few weeks ago, but there was no way she could do it all herself.

That’s where the “glean team” comes in.

Gleaners are Channel One volunteers who go and collect produce from around the area that potentially could become waste.

Organized by the food bank’s food sourcing manager, Adam Peterson, gleaning is a unique way to continue to add to what the local nonprofit food bank can offer the community.

“It’s our mission to help feed people in need,” Peterson said. “We want to find unique ways to find food and get produce in. We have to be creative to find every avenue we can.”

While gleaning on a home property is slightly unusual, he said they often work with local orchards, picking and taking the apples that won’t sell.

October is the biggest gleaning month for the food bank. While they’ve collected produce ranging from squash to grapes in the past, Peterson said apples have been their biggest food this year.

Ripe after the growing season, the apples can be gleaned easily by using ladders to hand-pick them into bags and buckets, or with the help of special poles with tines that detach the fruit’s stem from the tree.

Once collected, Peterson said Channel One has a clean room where they can go through and even bag the produce. But a large tote — such as the one filled with 800 pounds of apples from Johnson’s home — simply could be open for food bank customers to pick through.

But before those apples can be picked, it’s volunteer gleaners such as Ann Farrell who get them from the trees to the food bank.

The now-retired Spanish interpreter and librarian for Mayo Clinic said it is a great opportunity and cause to help.

“If this homeowner is offering up apples, and we can use those to help those who need Channel One, why wouldn’t (we)?” Farrell said. “It’s not hard, it’s just a little awkward trying not to poke yourself in the eye or fall off the ladder and pick a good apple.”

But in order to get those good apples to the Channel One food bank at all, it takes the nonprofit’s coordination of donations from apple tree owners and volunteers to make gleaning a success for all involved.

“It’s a good thing that Rochester has Channel One,” Ferrell said, “and that we do as much as we can to help the community.”

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Information from: Post-Bulletin, http://www.postbulletin.com

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