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save the strawberries, berry rescue, donation, community pathways, owatonna
Sixteen pallets of fresh strawberries ended up at the door of Community Pathways of Steele County last week. Submitted photo
Local food shelf saves 16 pallets of strawberries
Rick Bussler, Publisher

It’s a rescue Dom Korbel never envisioned before in his time with the local food shelf.

Community Pathways of Steele County rescued last week 16 pallets of strawberries, enough to blanket seven food shelves across southern Minnesota with fresh produce.

“It’s one of those things we never know when it will happen,” said Korbel, executive director of Community Pathways. “We are at the mercy of the surprise.”

And surprised he indeed was upon coming to work March 11. He found a driver with a trailer load of strawberries camped out in their parking lot. The unidentified driver had been there all night Sunday waiting for the food shelf to open Monday morning.

The strawberries had been rejected by a local distributor for some unknown reason. The driver was instructed to throw them away if he could not find a place to donate before noon.

“He was pretty determined to not let them go to waste,” said Korbel. “The risk of them getting dumped was high if we couldn’t help.”

Part of the challenge was the driver who had the strawberries was heading west. Korbel reached out to Channel One, which agreed to send a truck from Rochester to rescue 11 of the 16 pallets. Community Pathways kept four pallets while Waseca’s food shelf picked up one pallet. Cases were distributed locally to Trinity Lutheran and Our Savior’s Lutheran food shelves.

“Our goal is to move it and move it fast,” Korbel said. “Zach (Roberts, operations manager) and I lost about half our day managing strawberries, but we rescued 19,000 pounds of food.”

But nobody seemed to mind about the miraculous rescue that ended up benefiting hundreds of families. The total value of the strawberries was $76,608, according to Dave Otto, a board member of Community Pathways. He estimated they saved 396,218 strawberries. “That’s a lot of freaking strawberries,” he said.


It remains a mystery why the strawberries ended up at Community Pathways in the first place.

“The strawberries were perfect,” Korbel said. “We have absolutely no idea why they were rejected and neither did the driver,” he added.


Strawberries by the numbers

  • 16 pallets totaling 19,200 pounds
  • Average strawberry: 22 grams (414 grams in a pound)
  • 8,716,600 grams of strawberries
  • 396,218 strawberries
  • Average price per pound: $3.99
  • Total saved: $76,608


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