PROVO, Utah — As he busily picked bright green apples from a tree, Loren Boddy's eyes scanned nearby branches as well as the ground beneath his feet, determined not to let any of the ripe fruit go to waste.
The yard he worked in was that of a neighbor in Provo and just one of the many fruit-picking stops Boddy made that week as he collected unused fruit and delivered it to those who will put it to use.
During morning runs he once took when living in Springville six years ago, Boddy began noticing how much fruit went unused and ended up rotting beneath the trees in his neighborhood.
When he asked, the homeowners were more than happy to let him come and pick all he wanted for himself. Soon he was enjoying fresh grapes, apples, peaches, and one year even gathered 50 pounds of cracked walnuts, all for free.
Even though he enjoyed picking and eating his neighbor's harvest, it was still hard to see so much more going to waste.
"I don't think it's a good reflection on us to allow good food to go to waste, especially when there's a use for it," Boddy said.
Having spent time in some impoverished areas of Brazil where his parents were serving as missionaries during his teenage years, Boddy learned quickly how lucky he was to have plenty of food to eat at home.
"Food was often hard to come by for some people. It was kind of embarrassing to come home with shopping bags of groceries when people next door were just scraping along," he recalled.
Now, many years later, it's difficult for him to turn down a tree full of fruit when someone calls and says, "come help yourself." In fact, now he's sometimes called so often, especially during the fall, that he can spend three hours a day, three days a week picking fruit with the help of friend George Robinson and his truck.
In just one morning, after a few hours at three yards, Boddy had loaded more than 300 pounds of apples and plums into the back of Robinson's truck. In 2012 alone he's picked approximately 2,000 pounds of fruit.
With so much fresh produce on his hands Boddy has developed a network to help distribute it all. Neighbor Bobbie Davis has become his connection with the local LDS Relief Society, whose members can quickly whip up some fresh apple sauce, feed their families or can what's left before it spoils.
"Tomatoes and peaches are always necessary and I love juices: apricot, plum and grape, all kinds of fun juices," said Davis, who is always grateful for the bucketfuls delivered to her doorstep.
Stacks of boxes full of colorful, canned contents line a hallway in Davis's home, more than she admits she can ever use and is happy to share with others. And when the deliveries from Boddy come too frequently, Davis will find other means to distribute it, even carrying buckets of fruit to her bank, much to the employees' delight.
"And good things come back: cookies, banana bread, thank-you notes, vegetables. I haven't bought vegetables for three weeks," Boddy said with a smile, thinking of all the gifts that recipients have given in return.
Boddy admits the work can take a toll on his back, especially when spending hours standing up on a ladder or lifting heavy loads of fruit to the curbside where Robinson pulls up with the truck. But he doesn't consider it hard work and the rewards are worth the effort.
Not only is he raising awareness in his community and inspiring others to make use of the plentiful harvest that fills their neighborhoods each year, but at the same time he gets to enjoy some of his favorite treats for free.
"Oh juice, oh my goodness, if you've never tasted that Concord juice it's to die for," he said.
For anyone interested in picking local fruit that might otherwise go to waste, Boddy recommends checking for online postings by others who are growing more than enough.
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com