LPBC Civic Engagement Project Increases Access to Fresh Food

Leon Fooksman
Leadership Palm Beach County
May 21, 2015

A local charity involved in reducing hunger in Palm Beach County was given the rights to “glean” a mango grove in Lantana. But there was a challenge: the agency didn’t have much experience in gleaning mangos (which allows people to collect fresh food left over after an initial harvest is completed). So CROS Ministries turned to LPBC for help.

The resulting 2014 civic engagement project did research, created strategies, and brought the manpower that has helped produce 15,000 pounds of fresh fruit -- just last year alone.

Catherine Blomeke (Class of 2014) explains how her project team accomplished this – and how you can help keep the project going.

 

Briefly describe the civic engagement project.

Catherine Blomeke: Our civic engagement project was to assist CROS Ministries, a local not for profit 501(c)3, that works to address the issue of hunger in Palm Beach County by gleaning surplus produce.  CROS had only recently been given the gleaning rights to a mango grove in Lantana, which represented a large opportunity to collect fresh produce. But there was a problem: the organization knew very little about mango farming.

Our team was very impressed with CROS and their project leader, Keith Cutshall, so we got to work and recruited local experts including members of the Rare Fruit Council, professional arborists, local mango farmers and researchers at The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). We were able to help CROS answer many of the questions they had related to maintaining a mango grove, including questions related to irrigation, pest control, security, and the cultivation of the variety of tree mango trees that were in the CROS grove.  All “gleaned” information was set up into a management plan for CROS to use.

What did the project accomplish?

Catherine Blomeke: Noticing that the grove had several holes (space without trees), our team decided to set up a tree donation site at a Rare Fruit Council event and collected more than 30 young mango trees. Each donated mango tree was planted in the grove by a member of our team.  We also arranged a “gleaning day” when the fruit became ripe to showcase the grove to the community. We had a reporter from the Palm Beach Post attend the event and write about it to increase awareness.

The mango grove comprises of almost 300 healthy trees that were low producers, due to poor care before CROS took over. In 2013 the grove produced 5,000 pounds of fruit.  With the help of our civic engagement team in 2014, CROS learned to stagger the harvest cycles to fit the various varieties of mango trees and tripled their yield!  That’s 15,000 pounds of fresh fruit in one summer harvest!

Is work from the project still impacting our community? If yes, how so?

Catherine Blomeke: Our Leadership team is still looking for new ways we can help CROS increase our communities’ access to fresh food.  Our team is planning to take part in this year’s summer gleaning, but our big task is to help CROS find a professional arborist group that will donate its time and expertise to help us prune the grove.  This job requires people of experience, but if done correctly, it will allow the grove to become a much more productive field.  With proper maintenance, our grove could yield 200 points of fresh fruit per tree -- that’s 60,000 pounds of fresh fruit a year for many years to come.  That’s a goal worth pursuing!

Can LPBC alumni help out with project?

Catherine Blomeke: Yes. To get involved, contact Keith Cutshall at CROS Ministries, kcutshall@crosministries.org or 561-233-9009 x107. Tell him the LPBC 2014 Mango team sent you!

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