'Lemon lady' comes through in tough times

July 3, 2009 7:33:13 PM PDT
She calls herself "the lemon lady" because of all the backyard fruit she collects and delivers to bay area food pantries. But Anna Chan does much more than that, as her way of giving back to her community in these tough economic times.

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Anna Chan couldn't stand all the waste -- wasted fruit that is.

"I used to drive around the neighborhood and I'd see all the fruit ripening on the trees," said Chan.

So the stay-at-home mom decided it was time to get out, and do something about it. Now, Chan is known in her Concord neighborhood and beyond as the "lemon lady."

She goes house to house and with the owner's permission, harvests home-grown produce and delivers it to local food pantries.

"It's about nutrition," said Chan. "Fresh oranges, lemons, tomatoes, avocados, zucchini. These are all things that we take for granted, but they're not available to someone on a limited income," said Chan.

Homeowner Bonnie Wright gave Chan oranges that would otherwise have gone to waste.

"It seemed like just the perfect use for my oranges. Plus I have two apple trees that are about to begin dropping dozens of apples that I can't keep up with either," said Wright.

Over the past year, Chan estimates she's personally collected at least 5,000 pounds of produce from yards and gardens and driven it to food pantries that rarely receive such fresh donations.

Anna Chan brings much of what she collects to the Salvation Army Food Pantry in Concord, where demand for food has increased dramatically.

"We have seen a double increase in comparison to last year. Last year we were handing out about 200 food boxes per month and this year, it's double that, upwards of 400 just last month," said Stefani Varpi from the Salvation Army.

That's why Chan believes what she's doing is so important. Besides the hands-on gathering, Chan created a website to spread the word about what she does, and how others can help.

She's also organizing a community garden to grow fresh produce for families in need.

"Lots of local pantries need fresh fruit donations, Fruit is accepted. Everyone thinks can and boxes. Fresh fruit -- think fresh, think outside the box," said Chan.

ABC7 salutes Anna Chan for her dedication to her community.

Anna Chan Blog

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