Reduce food waste and feed people; USU student wants to reduce Cache Valley’s fruit tree waste

Kara Bachman started the USU Gleaning team after picking fruit to reduce food waste in AZ as part of a volunteer group.

LOGAN – Reduce food waste and feed people. That is the message Kara Bachman, co-director of Utah State University’s new Gleaning Team, wants to spread.

After getting back from picking fruit with refugees in Arizona, Bachman said she wanted to get a program like that started here in Cache Valley.

“I really liked the idea and kept thinking about food waste from the unpicked trees here in Cache Valley,” she said.

Bachman is a food waste intern in the USU Sustainability Department, and her co-director is the food preservation intern. Bachman has been working on getting the program off the ground for months and is finally ready to pick trees with volunteers starting August 5.

The thing about food waste is people and businesses don’t realize it’s happening in their own backyard, in their home, kitchen, or restaurant. They might become numb to it,” Bachman explained. “Watching your apricots fall off after you’ve picked however much you’ll eat or sell might not seem like much; but, understanding this food can go further than that, that’s what I want people to understand.”

Anyone who owns fruit trees that produce excess fruit, the team will come to pick the produce. The produce will be portioned into thirds. One-third given back to the tree owner, one-third donated to food pantries like the Cache Community Food Pantry and the USU SNACK pantry, and one-third is given to the volunteers.

Bachman said those who have registered their trees have been happy with the deal. “The owners see their fruit is going to people who need it, and it’s satisfying to them.”

Fourteen tree owners have already registered their trees, and Bachman said they need their trees picked now. She said they’re running into a few “hiccups”, like finding a truck to haul their ladders to each location.

“Right now, we only have enough to have a truck for seven gleaning days,” she explained. “So, if there’s anyone out there who is interested in volunteering that has a truck we could use, that would be amazing.”

While Bachman admits they probably won’t be able to get to all the trees registered this year, she still asks people to register them, so they can plan according to the need of the valley for future years.

“We may not get to it this year, but we hope to get to them eventually,” she said.

Bachman is the director of the Food Recovery Network at Utah State where the team collects 100-200 pounds of cold food waste from around campus for the school’s food pantry.

Realizing all this food would have been thrown into the dumpster every night really struck me,” she said. “Now we have students taking this food from the pantry every day, and students thanking us for helping them feed themselves and their families.”

The team is picking fruits and vegetables from trees and gardens in Cache Valley as a collaborative effort through the USU Val R. Christensen Service Center, USU Extension and the Student Sustainability Office.

For those interested in registering their trees or volunteering, contact the USU Gleaning Team at usugleaningteam@usu.edu or 435-797-0972 for more information.

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