A Ballarat community group is saving fresh fruit from going to waste while contributing to efforts to reduce food insecurity.
The Hidden Orchard harvests fruit from backyards and public areas and shares it among the site owners, pickers and local charities.
The charities distribute the fruit free to people within the community, or use it in meal programs.
It is connecting the dots between food wastage and food insecurity.Ellen Burns, The Hidden Orchard
"The concept is a pretty simple one that everyone immediately gets behind because it solves two problems at once," The Hidden Orchard harvest leader Ellen Burns said.
"There is all this food waste that is not even being recorded. There is also a huge problem with food security in Ballarat, larger than people realise I think."
Research shows 12 per cent of Ballarat's population experience food insecurity and access charitable food relief each year.
The Hidden Orchard distributes fruit to school breakfast programs, neighbourhood houses, the Salvation Army, Uniting Care, Ballarat Community Health, the Soup Bus, Secondbite, Food is Free Laneway and Our Kitchen.
Lower quality fruit and fruit picked from the ground is donated to the Wala Animal Sanctuary or the Ballarat Wildlife Park.
"It is connecting the dots between food wastage and food insecurity," Ms Burns said.
The Hidden Orchard is coming into its peak harvest time during February and March - the end of the stone fruit season and beginning of harvesting of apples, pears and figs.
Residents can register their trees with The Hidden Orchard for harvest.
"We get a lot of people who are tenants who might have no interest in the fruit harvesting or older people who maybe can't get up on a ladder," Ms Burns said.
The group also harvest fruit trees in public places including the cemeteries and Chisholm Street Reserve.
Six volunteers came together on Thursday to harvest a massive pear tree in the backyard of a Ballarat East resident.
At least two other harvest sessions were held this week.
Volunteers can sign up to participate in a harvest through online ticketing service Eventbrite.
The Hidden Orchard was started in 2017 after the Ballarat Local Food Forum, where attendees heard from a guest speaker behind the Growing Abundance group in Castlemaine.
Since, it has grown in membership and reach, with 12 committee members, eight harvest leaders and around 150 volunteers.
Ms Burns said she hoped the group would continue to grow to have multiple harvest leaders in each section of Ballarat, to be proactive in contacting people on the register and to build community and relationships.
To volunteer or register a fruit tree visit hiddenorchard.org/.
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