British Columbia

Students turn apples bound for landfill into healthy snacks for families in need

A group of college students in B.C.'s Okanagan region have developed a social enterprise project that creates nutritious snacks for families in need by using food bound for landfills. 

Okanagan College students' FruitSnaps initiative dehydrates imperfect apples

FruitSnaps is an Enactus Okanagan College project where the students dehydrate imperfect apples, making them a healthy snack with a longer shelf life than a regular apple, to give to families and children in need. (Submitted by Karsten Ensz)

A group of college students in B.C.'s Okanagan region have developed a social enterprise project that creates nutritious snacks for families in need by using food bound for landfills. 

In the fall of 2018, Abby Lagerquist noticed apples still on trees at the end of harvest season. After speaking with the orchard owners, she learned the apples were considered imperfect and would be left on the trees to rot. 

It inspired her to get together a group of fellow Okanagan College students to pick the fruit and put it to good use.

The result is a project called FruitSnaps. The group dehydrates imperfect apples, turning them into a healthy snack with a longer shelf life than a regular apple.

"In B.C., one in four kids live with food insecurity, and for Indigenous children it's one in two," said project manager Karsten Ensz.

"FruitSnaps started out with Enactus Okanagan College delivering servings to schools, which also gave us the opportunity to teach the children about responsible consumption and sustainability."

Enactus is a non-profit organization that aims to inspire entrepreneurship and innovation in students.

Imperfect apples would otherwise rot, so FruitSnaps turns them into healthy snacks. (Submitted by Karsten Ensz)

North Okanagan Valley Gleaners, a not-for-profit organization that dehydrates vegetables for soup mix to send to developing countries, gave the team access to their facilities for dehydration. 

B.C. Tree Fruits has donated more than 4,500 kilograms of apples that would have otherwise gone to waste. The group says the project has produced more than 35,000 servings and diverted more than 8,300 kilograms of food waste from landfills.

In mid-March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic picked up, they were ramping up production, expanding to new locations and trying to get FruitSnaps into communities outside the Okanagan, where they had been supplying snacks for about 4,000 school children. 

The pandemic changed those plans. They could no longer make the FruitSnaps because of limits on gatherings, but they still had lots of inventory to give out. 

"We started donating them to families that were really struggling amid the crisis that didn't have work anymore and couldn't provide healthy meals for their families," Ensz said.

He estimates they've helped about 35 families, all with children, during the pandemic.

They also donated snacks to food banks and churches in the region.

Now that restrictions are beginning to lift, they're hoping they'll be able to source more apples from distributors around the Okanagan. The ultimate aim is to make the project self-sustainable and widen distribution across Canada.

"The goal is to keep this project running forever. It's a great project that helps out the community in multiple different ways," Ensz said.

With files from Daybreak South

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