Project: Fruit Stars brings local fruit to school lunch program

The Fruits of Sherbrooke slogan, “Forgotten urban fruits made unforgettable,” summarizes the not-for-profit’s mission to make delicious, memorable products out of the otherwise forgotten fruits growing on trees in Edmonton, St. Albert and Sherwood Park.

Learning to make rosemary apple jelly with Carol in the Fruits of Sherbrooke Kitchen. Photo: Elyse Williams
Learning to make rosemary apple jelly with Carol in the Fruits of Sherbrooke Kitchen. Photo: Elyse Williams

Since 2010, the small but dedicated Fruits of Sherbooke team and their army of volunteers have been picking, preparing, cooking and preserving donated or “rescued” fruit (fruit picked from a homeowner’s yard, with permission, that would otherwise go unused). Their delicious preserves, like rosemary apple jelly and rhubarb chipotle ketchup, are sold at farmers’ markets and craft fairs around the city, at local stores like Studio Bloom, Bon Ton Bakery and Carbon Environmental, and even on the menu at some locally owned restaurants, like Cavern and Café Leva

In addition to making memorable products out of otherwise unused produce, Fruits of Sherbrooke is also responsible for diverting thousands of kilograms of food waste from Edmonton’s landfills into local food programs. In 2014 alone, Fruits of Sherbrooke successfully redirected 15,000 kg of apples to those in need of fresh, healthy fruit. While that may already sound like an amazing achievement, the big hearts and caring minds of the Fruits of Sherbrooke team never stop innovating.

In 2015, Fruits of Sherbrooke teamed up with a fellow non-profit, E4C (a charitable human services organization whose mission is to limit, alleviate and ultimately eliminate poverty), to create Project: Fruit Stars. Their mission: produce 50,000 dehydrated apple snack bags for E4C’s School Nutrition Program.

Project: Fruit Stars diverts  unused local fruit to E4C's School Lunch Program. Photo: Kickstarter
Project: Fruit Stars diverts unused local fruit to E4C’s School Lunch Program. Photo: Kickstarter

The team spent the fall crowd-sourcing the necessary funds needed to purchase equipment and retrofit their rental kitchen through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Unfortunately, a hot and dry summer meant soft apples in and around the city were falling from trees about three weeks earlier than usual. By the time the funds had been raised and the team was ready to get to work, there were next to no apples left. Luckily, Project: Fruit Stars had caught the attention of some local supporters.

Many groups stepped up to help, including the Italian Centre Shop who donated apples, and The Organic Box who donated bananas and storage space. De Simone Farms in Kelowna, B.C., also donated 2,500 lbs of apples which were shipped to Edmonton with the support of CDS Transport Services Ltd. and ATB Financial.

With the bounce back in their step, the Project: Fruit Stars team is now continuing their research and development phase of snack production. So far, they have made banana chips and many, many litres of apple sauce (which will be packaged into squeezable tubes for kids). While significant progress has been made, Project: Fruit Stars is still in need of more volunteers and support, in the form of:

  • Fruit donations from local grocery stores or suppliers
  • Experienced dehydrator aficionados (or their equipment)
  • Volunteers to package snacks
  • Volunteers to help with deliveries in the new year

Of course, volunteer opportunities are available year-round with Fruits of Sherbrooke, and they are always excited to have more help. Check out their website to learn how you could become a fruit picker or jelly maker, or learn how you can donate your backyard fruit!

Keep up to date with Project: Fruit Stars on Facebook or follow their updates on Kickstarter. Find Fruits of Sherbrooke on Facebook, Twitter or learn more on their website. Learn more about E4C, their School Nutrition Program and other initiatives on their website.