I am the president of the board of directors for The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, a local non-profit registered charity. In a nutshell, we harvest unwanted fruit from people's backyards, and distribute it to marginalized members of our community. This is fresh local fruit, free from pesticides, which would otherwise go to waste. To date we have harvested and distributed over 40,000 pounds of fruit to people who may not normally have access to such nutritious fresh food. We focus on ‘community building’, with many of our recipients being daycares, seniors homes, assisted housing associations and women's shelters. Many of our community partners run amazing food programs, including canning workshops, and are always delighted with the drop-offs of fruit that we provide.
It's a much loved project, in its 14th year, but sadly is at risk this season due to the loss of our major sources of funding. We are 95% volunteer run, and only need a modest annual budget of $13,000 to cover the costs of a part-time seasonal coordinator (one of Vancouver’s rare but sought after ‘green jobs’), transportation, insurance, and some administrative overheads. Sadly though, BC Gaming, who had been our main funder the last two seasons changed its funding criteria to not include operational costs (which are the only costs we need to cover), and Vancity, a funder in the past, have denied two grant applications we made this year.
I know the issue of changes to eligible criteria is a problem for most non-profits, with organizations having to constantly come up with ‘special projects’ in order to get funding. While we do have great ideas for additional projects, such as hosting more food preservation workshops, setting up a pruning service and looking into caring for and harvesting fruit trees on public land, these are ideas we want to pursue once we know we have our core funding in place.
However, on the flip side, a positive to come out of the loss of our major grants is to note how the board, local businesses, tree owners, volunteers and supporters have really stepped up. We have just held a raffle, and would like to thank all the businesses who donated prizes, as well as all the volunteers who have sold raffle tickets for us and of course everyone who has bought tickets!
We also recently held a season kick-off party and fundraiser at Rhizome Café. Again, it’s really heartening to see how many businesses generously donated silent auction prizes. In addition, musicians Kemal Evans, Beth Southwell and Callum Paterson all performed wonderful musical sets to entertain the audience, donating their time and talent for free.
Some other good news is that Whole Foods on Cambie have selected us to be a recipient of their ‘Community Chest’ program. Shoppers who use their own shopping bags will have the option to donate 10 cents per bag to our project – from now to the end of September.
Our fundraising efforts combined with some money left over from last year have at least allowed us to get the season started. We have our part-time coordinator in place and have some picks underway. However, we are still around $4,000 short of the necessary funds required to keep the project going through the full season.
Which leads to my next point: this is a callout to any philanthropists with a special interest in food security - please don’t hesitate to contact me!
I would like to close by thanking all the board, advisory members, tree owners and fruit pickers for all their hard work. Here’s to a fruitful 2013 season – let’s continue to figure out a way to see the whole season through!
Board President, The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project