Fruit Recycling for Food Security

No matter what corner of the Island you might find yourself, as soon you step out into Maui air, your nose is hit with the scent of fresh fruit growing trees along the coastline and throughout the slopes of Upcountry. Tall, sturdy mango trees hang heavy with the orange, melt-in-your-mouth fruit. Skinny papaya trees burst at the top with clusters of green and yellow orbs. Apple banana trees grow freely in front, side, and backyards–bunches ripening before residents can eat them. Amidst the hibiscus and plumeria trees, much of Hawaii’s natural flora bears fruit waiting to be picked. However, the abundance of ready-to-eat fruit can overwhelm households and small businesses creating a surplus of drupes and pomes destined to spoil.

Simultaneously, 10,000 Maui residents rely on Maui Food Bank for monthly meal supplies. With the economic recession spurring lay-offs and slowing tourism, more families have struggled to ensure access to healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Clearly, an opportunity for a new system of collection and distribution exists.

Enter: Waste Not, Want Not, a non-profit dedicated to harvesting and distributing donated fruit to local food banks and senior centers. Founded by a brother and sister team who had begun bringing over surplus fruit from their own backyards to Hale Mahaolu senior citizens housing complex, Suzanne Freitas and James Mylenek Sr, saw the potential for expansion. The Foundation hosts Harvest Days throughout the year–teams of volunteers gather to collect fruit from various properties at no cost and then deliver the fresh produce to local low-income community programs.

Without any major funding, the small foundation continues its much-needed “fruit cycling” resting on the delicate balance of volunteers who harvest, fruit tree owners who donate, and sponsors who contribute financially. The Foundation boasts over 35 volunteers Maui-wide to call on for assistance. While there is no shortage of fruit and vegetables, unfortunately, the lack of materials–trucks, ladders, and bags–limit the amount of participating volunteers. Today, Waste Not, Want Not aims to continue expansion by securing additional funding sources to support material costs in order to increase the overall potential of fruit for collection. The Foundation also hopes to serve as model for other Hawaiian communities who are interested in implementing the same process.

Co-founder, Freitas puts forth an open invitation in The Maui News to residents: “Wasting large amounts of food is no longer acceptable, and so it’s time to act. The fruit is ready and waiting, let’s cycle it.”

For more information on volunteering, donating, or sponsoring:
Waste Not Want Not Foundation
221 Lalo St.
Kahului, HI 96732
Phone: 808.874.8038