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Urban gleaning growing across nation

Community fruit harvesting

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Community groups that harvest otherwise wasted fruit from urban trees are cropping up across the nation, splitting the harvest between pickers, property owners, and local food pantries, according to The Atlantic Cities:
Interestingly, many of North America’s urban gleaning programs took root within the last three or four years, often founded by individuals with neither agricultural nor social service experience.

Rick Nahmias, founder of L.A.’s two-and-a-half-year-old Food Forward,  never expected to be at the helm of a major urban gleaning project when he and a couple of volunteers decided to collect ten crates of tangerines from a neighbor’s property and donate them to charity. But he came by his interest honestly: a photographer, Nahmias had been taking images of California migrant farm workers and saw the “cruel irony” that many couldn’t afford to eat the food they were harvesting.

He decided to focus on an area of the San Fernando Valley that once sustained thousands of acres of citrus groves. Those farms are gone, but many residential properties still have orange, tangerine, and lemon trees. Since launching, Food Forward grew quickly, and has now delivered 2.2 million servings of fruit to a network of about 20 local food banks and pantries. “We have an embarrassment of abundance,” Nahmias observes, adding that his volunteers are attracted by the immediacy of their work. “At the end of the day, there’s a huge pile of fruit. You can see the results very quickly. That’s very rewarding.”

Similar groups have formed in other West Coast cities like San Francisco and Portland, but projects have also sprouted in more climatically challenged regions, such as Las Vegas/Clark County, home base to Project AngelFaces, a 6-year-old group that combines gleaning and gardening programs for at-risk youth. The arid valley, says founder Rhonda Killough, contains a surprising amount of arable land suitable for figs, pomegranates, and almonds. “We can literally pick all year round.”

(Image Credit: s2art / flickr, creative commons)

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