Sweet partnership turns Calgarians’ unwanted crabapples into homegrown cider

Leftovers is partnering with SunnyCider to upcycle excess fruit

By Krista Sylvester | July 8, 2022 |5:00 am

Calgarians who have excess fruit and vegetables — including crabapples — can donate to upcycle them.

Photo: Submitted

It’s a sweet partnership that will help keep food from going to waste. 

The Leftovers Foundation’s Home Harvest program connects Calgarians who have excess fruit and veggies growing in their backyards with volunteers who can help harvest it. 

At least half the harvested food is donated to community service agencies such as Calgary Community Fridge, while volunteers who help harvest have the opportunity to keep some of the home-grown food for themselves. 

And now a new partnership between Leftovers and SunnyCider is helping get crabapples out of people’s yards and into the hands of a local cider house that processes these normally less-desired and over-abundant fruits into delicious 100% cider. 

Making cider from crabapples 

Leftovers is partnering with SunnyCider to upcycle excess fruit that they can’t find homes for — specifically crabapples, which SunnyCider will then upcycle into delicious homegrown cider. 

“The food harvested in our backyards is arguably the healthiest, most sustainable food around. Home Harvest ensures none goes to waste and increases community access to locally-grown food,” says Heidi Bench, program lead for Leftovers. 

Bench says there wasn’t a lot of interest in crabapples from service organizations, but there are a lot of them growing in the community that end up going to waste. 

“We didn’t accept crabapples because… it was not really something people wanted,” Bench says, adding SunnyCider reached out to the organization earlier this year with the idea. 

“After chatting with them, they said they could absolutely use crabapples. And we did have a lot of people submit requests for crabapples, even though we didn’t accept them last year. We knew the demand was there.” 

The hierarchy of composting 

While crabapples would normally compost themselves if left in people’s yards, many ended up in compost bins, too. 

As Bench explains, there is a food recovery hierarchy that highlights the best uses of food, and compost is at the bottom of the hierarchy. 

“Environmentally, it’s still a great option, but it’s kind of your last resort. Trying to use food for people or even for animal feed is higher in the hierarchy, so finding other uses for them is positive.”  

Bench encourages Calgarians who have excess fruit and vegetables growing in their backyards — including crabapples — to register online to donate. 

More volunteers needed 

The organization is also looking for more volunteers to keep up with the demand. 

“We’re encouraging people to sign up with us as a grower because then we can track how much food is getting rescued, and it helps us to track the environmental impact of the food being rescued as opposed to wasted,” Bench says. 

“One of the things we struggled with last year the most was a bottleneck. We had way, way more growth than we did volunteers so we were only able to complete about half the harvests that were requested last year.” 

The Leftovers Rescue Food App is available for free on the App Store and Google Play. Interested volunteers can download the app and sign up for Home Harvest routes to complete as an individual or as a group. 

“Simply download the Rescue Food app, sign up, and start volunteering,” Bench says. “You can pick the harvests that work best for your schedule and volunteer as often as you like — no regular commitment required.”

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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