Project Pick Aids Food Bank Despite Pandemic

Project Pick Volunteers Jill Saxty, Dena Anderson, and Alison Limoges prepare to embark on a pre-COVID fruit-tree-picking event.

Project Pick Aids Food Bank Despite Pandemic

Like every other community organization in Alameda, Alameda Backyard Growers’ (ABG) Project Pick faced a dilemma when COVID-19 shut down the Bay Area back in March. How could volunteers continue to meet in large groups to pick backyard fruit trees at several locations? How could ABG keep volunteers and fruit donors safe? Most importantly, how could ABG’s efforts continue to support the Alameda Food Bank (AFB), which was facing a nearly tenfold increase in clients after the pandemic hit? The Food Bank went from serving about 800 families each month to up to 1,800 each week!

ABG decided to hand out extendable picking equipment to a smaller group of volunteers. They worked in groups of two or three within their own “bubbles,” wore masks and encouraged homeowners to stay inside while they worked.

Thanks to these dedicated volunteers Project Pick has donated more than 4,000 pounds of locally grown fruit to AFB since the pandemic started, and a total of more than 7,400 pounds donated so far in 2020.

Project volunteers who deserve thanks include: Ann Naffzinger; Madeleine and Rachel Canavese; Angie, Greg and Hadley Klein; Alison Limoges; Amy Fraher; Daniel, Priscilla and Timothy Chung; Nina Bacey; Amy Kalkstein; Mary Sotelo; Jennifer McGaffey; Trang Truong; and Birgitt Evans.

ABG is thrilled to support AFB and, according to AFB Executive Director Cindy Houts, the feeling is mutual. She said they are pleased to accept local home-grown fresh produce, knowing that Project Pick helps to stop food waste, supports carbon-storing backyard trees, and generates community good will and generosity.

“The symbiotic relationship between AFB and ABG benefits the whole community,” said Houts. 

Alamedans can help continue this important mission of feeding hungry neighbors. Donate money to AFB at or pick your own fruit and Project Pick will pick up and deliver it to the Food Bank for you.

ABG is one of just a few organizations currently allowed to donate fresh produce to the Food Bank. Individual donations are not currently accepted. Donating 50 pounds of a fruit like apples, for example, can save the Food Bank roughly $200 they would have to spend to buy the fruit.

ABG gratefully accepts fruit donations, under these guidelines:
* Fruit must be firm (no figs or other mushy fruit).
* Fruit may not have holes, bruises or critter bite marks.
* Do not pick up fruit that has fallen to the ground. It should come straight off the tree.
* If you are unable to pick the fruit yourself, ABG’s team of volunteers can come out to help.

ABG thanks the generous donors who have contributed this year. Contact Project Pick at about donating fruit. Or consider donating money or time to AFB —they can still use additional volunteers. We will get through this crisis as the caring community we are while looking out for our neighbors in need!

Jillian Saxty volunteers with ABG.

ABG is dedicated to teaching Alameda neighbors how to grow food. During this difficult time, ABG’s education program has moved online at Visit the Free ABG Seed Library at 2829 San Jose Ave. to pick up seasonal seeds.

ABG’s Project Pick is always looking for fruit trees to pick and volunteers to help pick them for delivery to AFB. To sign up, email