Harvest Club Looks to Backyard Groves of Orange County to Feed the Hungry

Harvest Club volunteers pose next to freshly­ picked oranges from backyard trees. The oranges’ next destination is various food banks throughout Orange County. (photo courtesy Lindsey Harrison/The Harvest Club)

Harvest Club volunteers pose next to freshly­ picked oranges from backyard trees. The oranges’ next destination is various food banks throughout Orange County. (photo courtesy Lindsey Harrison/Harvest Club of Orange County)

While citrus groves no longer dot the landscape, trees in backyards across Orange County still yield an abundance of produce that sadly often goes to waste. But thanks to the efforts of the Harvest Club of Orange County, a volunteer-based organization that gleans fruit from neighborhood trees, much of this excess backyard bounty now goes to help feed the hungry.

The gleaning operation started informally in Huntington Beach.

“In 2009 a couple of friends had fruit trees they could not finish,” says Lindsey Harrison, coordinator of volunteers for the Harvest Club. “Others helped pick trees and donated extra fruit to the food bank.”

More and more neighbors got on board and as word spread, the organization began to grow and solidify. In 2011 the Harvest Club became a project of the Orange County Food Access Coalition (OCFAC). By this time Harvest Club’s coverage area had already expanded beyond its Huntington Beach roots, but the new association with OCFAC served to further boost its countywide presence. Read more

To Tackle Food Insecurity, Orange County Coalition Takes Broad Approach to Increase Food Access

Orange County Food Access Coalition takes advantage of the county’s robust fruit harvest to help meet food equity challenges. (photo courtesy Christina Hall/Orange County Food Access Coalition)

Orange County Food Access Coalition takes advantage of the county’s robust fruit harvest to help meet food equity challenges. (photo courtesy Christina Hall/Orange County Food Access Coalition)

To many, Orange County is known for high-end shopping, affluent neighborhoods and, of course, Disneyland. But submerged beneath the county’s oft-glittery surface is the insidious problem of poverty.

According to U.S. Census statistics, median household income in Orange County is $75,998. However, 12.9 percent of county residents live in poverty (defined as annual income less than $12,331).

Poverty often leads to hunger.

“Orange County is a challenging place,” says Christina Hall, executive director of the Orange County Food Access Coalition. “It’s an expensive brand, but with high levels of poverty and food insecurity. We hide that very well.” Read more