Eat Local

Published on September 27th, 2008 | by Bryan Luukinen


Apples, Apples Everywhere! And Not a Bite to Eat…? Free Food in the City!


Lately, I’ve been noticing food. Yes, but not in the usual places like the grocery store, farmer’s markets, produce stands, et cetera. No, I’ve been noticing food in unusual places. On the ground. Under trees. In the street.

While many people these days may think that apples, pears, plums and walnuts only come from pristine orchards in pastoral valleys, there is food among us. Right under our noses. And often, it’s going to waste.

Yes. Perfectly good food is piling up in our neighborhoods while we trot off to the Big Box Mart to fill our baskets with the very same species of fruit and nuts that have (often) been trucked in thousands of miles from exotic places like Australia and Chile.

You may be thinking to yourself – “So What? I don’t have an apple tree in my backyard, and my neighbor would see it as a good opportunity to unleash his rottweiler if he saw me plucking plums from the tree in his yard.” Maybe so. But, then again, maybe not. Since 2005, some folks in Los Angeles have taken the risk and have come up with delicious results.

David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young went out into L.A.’s streets and looked for fruit. They found it, and started mapping the fruit they found and posting the maps on their website.

The concept is simple – the guys believe “…that fruit is a resource that should be commonly shared, like shells from the beach or mushrooms from the forest.”

Further, they state that “Fallen Fruit is a mapping and manifesto for all the free fruit we can find. Every day there is food somewhere going to waste. We encourage you to find it, tend and harvest it. If you own property, plant food on your perimeter. Share with the world and the world will share with you. Barter, don’t buy! Give things away! You have nothing to lose but your hunger!”

Okay, okay, since this is web 2.0, here’s a video for those of you who don’t like to read. Some have taken to calling this act of snaggin free food urban harvesting. Check out “Urban Harvesting” in a nutshell (pun intended):

Urban harvesting-Collect and distribute local foods to local markets from Kemper Barkhurst on Vimeo.

Inspirational? Yes. The Portland Fruit Tree Project, The Philadelphia Orchard Project, and Lettuce Link in Seattle are similar groups that have uncovered the fruits that lay at our feet and in our communities, going to waste. The groups hold food processing classes, they plant trees to provide food security for urban dwellers, and drop renegade tomato plants in freeway medians for making salsa.

If you’re in Victoria, B.C., hit up the LifeCycles Fruit Tree Project, a group that gathered 35,000 pounds of fruit last year. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s around 17.5 TONS. If it takes two pounds of apples to make one nine-inch pie, 17,500 apple pies could be made that would have otherwise decomposed at the base of the tree.

At six slices per pie, they’ve harvested dessert for 105,000 people. You can pick your jaw up off of the table now. The point is, there are literally tons and tons of fruit going to waste every summer and fall, and these folks are not going to stand for it. Should you?

City dweller, there’s free, local, delicious food out there that likely hasn’t been treated with anything and will be there next year and for many years to come. Oh, and it requires absolutely NO maintenance and very little effort. So grab your ladder, talk to your neighbors, and start foraging! There is such a thing as a free lunch, or at least a free dessert.

Image credit: Fallen Fruit

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About the Author

I'm an environmental scientist, food lover, gardener, aspiring farmer, and one helluva cook. I'm passionate about food politics, the environment, rational governments, cooking, food, and life. I live in Corvallis, OR, but I've been lots of places. Most don't get nearly the rain we do here. I think food is one of the most important things in life. We all eat, and therefore we all make an impact on the world with our food choices. We have all gotten too far from our food, and once we get closer, the charade of the industrial food system becomes more apparent. Do not dispair; grow something to eat, choose food that your grandmother could identify as such, and think about where your food comes from. If we all did one of those three, real, good food would be much more plentiful - and the world might be a better place.

One Response to Apples, Apples Everywhere! And Not a Bite to Eat…? Free Food in the City!

  1. Bellen says:

    During orange harvest season many people in small towns in Florida will gather oranges and sometimes grapefruit at corners where the trucks turn – open topped trailers piled high with oranges so some fall out. Safe to eat because the oranges are washed and peeled.

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