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Tons of free oranges go to food pantries

March 10, 2009 |  4:15 pm


(Packing oranges from the Big Pick for food pantries)

When Rick Nahmias walked his dog, he would often see fruit trees that no one tended. "Ninety percent of it falls on the ground, goes to squirrels, rats," he said.

And an idea was born: For a few weekends he got some people together, they picked the fruit and gave it to SOVA, a Jewish Family Service organization that runs three food pantries.

But the simmering idea behind the small harvests was "the Big Pick," and on Sunday, dozens of volunteers went to work at an estate in Chatsworth and picked nearly 5,000 pounds of oranges from about 300 trees. SOVA began giving the fruit to people today at their pantries, said Fred Summers, the organization's operations manager.

"The numbers of people that are struggling grows month by month," he said, adding that demand is up 45% over a year ago.

Nahmias, a documentary photographer, said about 60 people came out Sunday to pick the Valencia oranges, at a cost of nearly nothing — about $200 for some picking tools, and coffee and doughnuts for fuel. And orange juice, of course, squeezed on the spot.

Nahmias, who is calling the project Food Forward, hopes other people will organize similar events in their communities. People who want to take part can contact SOVA at (818) 988-7682.

More pictures are posted on the experiencela blog.

Mary MacVean

Photo courtesy of Curtis Gibbs/experienceLA