Doris the Fruit Lady Plays Matchmaker

Fruit donors with backyard trees are protected from liability claims under federal law.

Doris Worland of Olalla is still mad about fruit from backyards tree going to waste. The Kitsap Sun last year covered Worland’s mostly fruitless efforts to mount a gleaning effort in Kitsap County. This year she’s gotten a jump start on harvest season.

One phone call at a time, Worland is rounding up potential pickers and potential donors of fruit for the gleaning. Donated fruit will be given to local food banks.

Worland’s goal is to play matchmaker from one end of the county to another and, if possible, in a wider area encompassing everything from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Hood Canal Bridge.

“I don’t want your vote. I don’t want your money. I don’t want you to join my church,” she said. “It just makes my heart hurt when I see all that stuff on the ground.”

Worland has had some luck identifying church, business and service groups willing to help pick backyard fruit, and she’s developing a list of people with trees and an overabundance of plums, pears and apples. The plums should be the first ones coming ripe any time now (if the weather would cooperate). The pears and apples could last into mid-October.

So much fruit, so little time. “The logistics are really hard,” Worland said.

Drawing information from Seattle Tilth’s Community Fruit Tree Harvest program, Worland is ready with answers to frequently asked questions.

Can you pick fruit off the ground? No, it could contain E coli bacteria, and bruised fruit spoils more quickly.

Can you claim your donation of fruit as a tax deduction? Yes, it is the donor’s responsibility to determine the value – typically market value multiplied by number of pounds.

What if a volunteer gets injured while picking fruit?

Worland is glad you asked. Donors, unless they exhibit “gross negligence,” are protected from liability for injuries to gleaners who are collecting fruit on their property for donation purposes under the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996.

According to a Seattle Tilth publication, there are several ways property owners can be protected from claims. If a group’s picking effort is part of a larger organization that provides coverage for volunteers, they may be covered under the organization’s policy. An organization that uses volunteer gleaners could buy commercial liability insurance from an insurance company that works with nonprofits. Or the property owner can simply ask volunteers to sign a waiver.

Seattle Tilth, as of last year anyway, had a paid staff member dedicated to the Community Fruit Tree Harvest. Kitsap County has Doris the Fruit Lady. If you can help, give her a call at (253) 970-2047 or e-mail Dorisforfoodbank@aol.com. Alternately, contact her community partners Rich Tucker, (253) 282-5502, rwtucker@msn.com, or Andrew Welch, (253) 851-5817, (360) 876-9600, or e-mail andrewwelch@windermere.com.

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