Got Mangos, Avocados, Starfruit to Share?
You love mangos. You’ve shipped them up north to friends and family. You’ve peeled and sliced and frozen them in zip-top bags to remind you in November what summer tastes like. You’ve made mango bread, mango chutney, mango salsa. Still the mangos keep coming.
And the avocados are starting to get ready, too.
Living in South Florida is filled with rewards, but sometimes the plate overflows. This is where Anna Milaeva can help. A few years ago, she came up with Mangoes to Share, a simple program that connects people who have a surplus of fruits with those who could use some food – homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Milaeva and volunteers pick up the extra fruits and deliver them to those in need.
In 2014, Mangoes to Share started in the Grove and the Roads areas in Miami, and Tom Falco was one of the folks who put the word out via the Coconut Grove Grapevine. Milaeva also set up a Facebook page to spread the news and post fun pictures of collecting.
Last summer, as Mangoes to Share began its second year, WLRN covered the story and it was picked up for NPR’s “Here and Now” – and that’s when things really took off. She and her colleague Steven Brownlee plus their volunteers collected hundreds of pounds of mangos and distributed them to the Miami Rescue Mission, Lotus House, Camillus House and other groups.
This year, we tagged along to see how the program was doing. We met up with Milaeva one steamy Saturday at the Miami Shores house of Sompa Adhya-Taylor, who had two grocery bagds filled with backyard starfruit ready and waiting. Arriving with two volunteers, Annabella and Alexandra Bozo, sisters and students at Immaculata-LaSalle, Milaeva chatted briefly with Adhaya-Taylor, who found out about Mangoes to Share on Facebook. It was a quick pickup, but they’ll be back in a few weeks to pick up some avocados on a big backyard tree.
Next, Milaeva and her team headed to a house in Miami Beach, where homeowner Nicolas Navarro was grateful to share some of the mangoes on his two trees. Colleague Steven Brownlee showed up to scramble up the trees, using their new $40 Home Depot fruit picker to snag mangos, while the volunteers filled trash bags.
“You meet all kinds of people doing this,” says Milaeva, whose day job is operations manager for a finance company. “It’s been beautiful. People help.” As if on cue, Navarro brought out glasses of cold water for the workers.
Now that Mangoes to Share is in its third year, they’re growing, says Milaeva. First, she says, they’re searching for more small soup kitchens or local organizations dedicated to feeding people that they can add to their list of locations for donations. They’re also interested in setting up a branch in Broward, since they’re spread so thin.
And she’s also formed a 501(c)(3) – a tax-exempt nonprofit – and a cause to support: fundraising for edible gardens to be planted at orphanages in Nigeria. A new website is in the works, and details about the new cause are forthcoming.
It's a lot happening, but Milaeva couldn't be happier about the days ahead. “I’m superexcited!” she says.
To find out more about Mangoes to Share and how you can help combat food waste, visit their Facebook page.