Students Pick Fruit to Donate to People in Need

EXETER, Calif. -- Students in Tulare County want to make sure no one goes to bed hungry this Thanksgiving.

"It's just really fun, it's really awesome to do, it's just nice to give back to the community," said Breanna Betancourt, a senior at Mission Oak High School and a volunteer with Harvesting Hope Tulare County.

The program, which began as a classroom project, aims to help fix Tulare County's hunger problem by picking and donating locally grown fruit to food banks.

According to the USDA, nearly a quarter of the population in Tulare County live below the federal poverty line.

"And so that was alarming to them, and they felt that they wanted to do something," said Michaelpaul Mendoza, a teacher coordinator for the program.

"As opposed to, you know, learning about history, I'd like to say that they decided to be part of making history," he said.

Hundreds of students have taken part in the program and have harvested over 150,000 pounds of fruit. The process is simple: local farmers and residents call Harvesting Hope and let them know they'd like to donate some fruit. Then the students gather on a weekend morning and pick the fruit, which is then taken to local food banks.

Students from six Tulare County schools gathered on their first day of Thanksgiving break to pick grapes in Exeter in partnership with local organization God's Vineyard. The students picked over 5,000 pounds of grapes, which were donated to FoodLink in Tulare.

"It's given me a new appreciation and a new like pride I guess for being from Tulare County because it's hard work. It's hard work," Betancourt said.

If you live in Tulare County and would like to donate fruit trees or learn how to get involved with Harvesting Hope, contact United Way of Tulare County at 559-685-1766 or visit their website.