Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Di's brainwave provides needy with surplus fruit

Di Celliers says she has no trouble finding pickers. Photo / Richard Robinson
Di Celliers says she has no trouble finding pickers. Photo / Richard Robinson

A group on Auckland's North Shore has created a unique match-making scheme - for fruit.

The group, inspired by Browns Bay bank systems analyst and mother of three Di Celliers, links people with surplus fruit in their gardens to others who cannot afford to buy fruit.

Her volunteers have picked fruit in more than 20 gardens so far. Now they want to spread the idea throughout the country.

"I've had brochures printed and as I drive past a home with lovely fruit trees I put one in their letterbox," Mrs Celliers said.

"I've even knocked on doors, that's how cheeky I am. There was one lady I stopped outside her house. She had a little grapefruit tree and I knocked on her door. I had my young son with me and the two of us picked the whole tree."

People have been surprisingly willing to part with their fruit.

"A lot of people can't eat grapefruit because of medication they take," Mrs Celliers said.

"Some have a mandarin tree and don't want any of it, don't like it. Others have a tree and say to leave half for them, or a quarter."

She has also found it easy to find volunteer pickers, initially from her church and her workplace at ASB Bank, and then by creating a Facebook page, facebook.com/pickfruit.

"There are a lot of groups that just want to be given the opportunity."

So far she has given most of the surplus fruit to the Auckland City Mission, but some people needing fruit have also been in touch.

"One lady responded and said please may she have some fruit," Mrs Celliers said.

"There was another lady near her who wanted to give away some fruit. So I put the two in touch with each other and she dropped off some fruit to the lady who needed it."

Mrs Celliers, who came here from South Africa 16 years ago, realised the need for the scheme when she started a community garden at the Windsor Park Baptist Church last year to provide produce for food parcels.

In June she started a community harvest day at the church on Sundays for people to give away their surplus for a donation. She used the donated money to buy two extended poles to pick from high fruit trees.

Although each picking day takes a few hours to organise, she gets "a lot of joy" out of simply helping people.

"I'd love to see it spread across the whole country," she said.

"If anyone is interested in setting it up, let me know. I can give them some tips."

- NZ Herald

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