June 14, 2008

Community Roots Makes Sure Leftover Produce Put to Good Use: Group Looking for More Garden Donations, Volunteers

By Amy Cannata, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

Jun. 14--Seeing pounds and pounds of farm fresh produce land in compost piles was too much for Korrine Kreilkamp.

Kreilkamp knew there were so many mouths that could benefit from wholesome, local vegetables and fruit, so last year she found a way to get farmers' market and backyard gardeners' extra harvests to Kootenai County soup kitchens and food banks.

The Community Roots program salvaged and delivered 3,340 pounds of fruit and vegetables in its first year, and Kreilkamp said she thinks even more can be done this year.

The group, under the umbrella of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, is looking for more home gardeners to donate their produce and more volunteers to collect and deliver vegetables and fruit.

"It started with me being the amateur gardener I am. I found out just a couple of seeds could end up becoming too many zucchinis," she said of her own garden.

Post Falls gardener Marie Dyer contributes part of her harvest to Community Roots.

Dyer's backyard raised beds are filled with beans, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, peas and other vegetable plants. Some of that will feed Dyer herself, but she plants extra with the intention of donating to Community Roots.

"This was right up my alley," she said. "I think it's fabulous. Harvesting and picking is just a Zen thing. Whenever there's extra it's really nice to have some place that wants it."

Now Dyer also helps pick up other people's vegetables for Community Roots.

It's not just home gardeners who find themselves with more produce than they can use.

Growers at the Coeur d'Alene Farmers' Market often find it's easier to compost what they can't sell than try to find buyers somewhere else after the market closes for the day. That's where Community Roots volunteers step in. They pick up the leftover vegetables, herbs and flowers -- sometimes with bike carts -- sort the haul and then deliver it to places it can be used.

Since different soup kitchens operate on just about every night of the week, the food can be delivered at its freshest, Kreilkamp said.

Community Roots will also send volunteers to pick donated fruit from home orchards.

Laura Sankovich often volunteers to pick up produce from Pilgrim's.

"Pilgrim's has been a good partner," she said of the natural food store which on some days has donated as much as 80 pounds of food.

Sankovich said she likes the concept of giving nutritious fare to people who need it.

The Coeur d'Alene Women's Center is one of the recipients.

"We are a nonprofit, and a lot of times we don't even have enough money to put food in the shelter," said Brenda Martino who works there.

Left to other donation sources, the center more typically serves canned food, so fresh produce is a real treat.

Martino said when a Community Roots delivery comes in she and others at the center work quickly to cook what they can and prepare and freeze the rest.

Community Roots organizer Kreilkamp thinks even more people could be helped.

"I have an extra row in my garden I designated for donation," she said. "If everybody did that we'd have a lot of produce we could get to people."


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