Extraordinary San Diegans

Extraordinary San Diegans: There's Enough Food for Everyone

Volunteers with the San Diego-based nonprofit, Produce Good, are saving thousands of pounds of produce from going to waste – and getting it into the right hands during the coronavirus pandemic

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For a lot of families, food is one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic. Food banks are stretched thin as families forced out of work continue to try to make ends meet. But according to one San Diego woman, there’s plenty of food for everyone.

“One of the things we are learning in this pandemic is that a lot of our systems don’t work,” said Nita Kurmins Gilson. “It’s not that there isn’t enough food. It’s getting the food to the people who need it.”

Kurmins Gilson says 40% of all food in the U.S. is wasted. That’s part of what inspired her to start the local nonprofit, Produce Good.

The group works with properties around San Diego County growing fruits and vegetables that otherwise would not be harvested for a variety of reasons.

Kurmins Gilson and her volunteers pick that produce and then get it to the food banks and organizations that can get it to the people who need it most.

It’s a process called gleaning.

Kurmins Gilson first started doing it a decade ago. So, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she was fully prepared to help. She said the group has harvested 8,000 pounds of produce a week since the start of the stay at home order.

It’s so satisfying to be able to do something and know that what you’re doing is really helping people.

Nita Kurmins Gilson, Produce Good

“That’s 24,000 servings of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “We have doubled our activity. We are doing twice as much as we ever have.”

The day NBC 7 caught up with them, the volunteers were gleaning a blueberry patch at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. The patch was supposed to be for visitors at the popular attraction to pick their own fruit, but when the pandemic forced the fields to close, there was no plan to harvest and distribute the fruit.

“It would’ve just fallen to the ground and gone to waste,” said Lizbeth Ecke, whose family has owned the Carlsbad Flower Fields for more than 75 years.

“It’s amazing when you see on TV the number of people relying on food banks. It’s nice to be part of the solution,” Ecke added.

Produce Good has already helped harvest more than 1,000 pounds of blueberries from that one property and taken it to several food banks and nonprofits.

Kurmins Gilson said fruit can be in people’s homes the same day it’s picked.

“It’s so satisfying to be able to do something and know that what you’re doing is really helping people,” said Kurmins Gilson. “I don’t know if there’s anything much better than that.”

In this week's "Your Corner" segment, NBC 7's Greg Bledsoe speaks with Nita Kurmins Gilson of the local nonprofit, Produce Good. Her organization is fighting two problems simultaneously: hunger and food waste. She's hoping to help hungry San Diegans one piece of fruit at a time.

If you’d like to volunteer or have a property with produce that needs to be harvested, you can learn more about Produce Good here.

NBC 7 first featured Produce Good in our Your Corner series in 2017, so read more about the nonprofit here, too.

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