Blogpost: When fruit and sharing come together, everyone wins

Good news of the week: the Sharing economy has set sail. With AirBnB reaching over 1 million users a month, the world’s first fair trade and open source Smartphone being launched in Amsterdam, and locals hosting pop-up restaurants in their homes  across the globe, a new cultural narrative of collaborative consumption is unfolding. And with summer fruits ripe and ready to be picked, what better way to celebrate than by sharing fruit -- urban fruit, that is.

In today's world where over 30% of food goes to waste, every little bit counts. Community-based initiatives have sprung up in several cities to reclaim the overlooked edible bounty of our own city streets and backyards.

Two non-profit initiatives in Toronto and Montréal are harnessing helping hands from local communities to harvest urban fruit trees in people's gardens. Most homeowners are unable to keep up with the abundant harvest produced by their tree, leaving thousands of fruits unharvested each year. Not Far From The Tree in Toronto and Les Fruits Défendus in Montréal see this as an opportunity -- to reduce waste by redistributing fresh, local produce to local food banks, shelters, and community kitchens.

NFFTT volunteers

Not Far from the Tree volunteers picking cherries in Toronto. Source: Flickr.

Not Far From The Tree aims to inspire residents "to harvest, share, celebrate, and steward the bounty from our urban forest as a way to connect more intimately with a sound environmental way of life."

As Les Fruits Défendus puts it, "[this] brings together fruit tree owners and volunteer fruit pickers in order to give the city's delicious fruits a happier fate." In the end, everyone's happy - homeowners, volunteers, community members, and even the fruits!

In fact, there are dozens of organizations across the country carrying out similar "fruit rescue" operations, with 15 in British Columbia, two in Alberta, two in Quebec, two in Manitoba, one in Newfoundland and Labrador, and eight in Ontario.

Three geographers and photographers from the University of Colorado took on the ambitious project of quantifying these urban resources on a global map. Falling Fruit's website reads:

"Falling Fruit is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets. By quantifying this resource on a map, we hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food."

fruit map - world

Falling Fruit world map. Source

The map data is crowdsourced, meaning any local from Montreal, Barcelona, or Beijing can go on the website and input the geo-coordinates, a photo, and a short description the plum tree down the block. Talk about open source! Being able to share data now means being able to share resources, like deliciously free local fruit.

fruit map - apple

A lonely apple tree in Michigan, submitted by an anonymous user. Source

Another troupe of three decided to form an art collaboration around abandoned fruit in Los Angeles. Fallen Fruit "uses fruit as a common denominator to change the way [people] see the world", first by mapping fruit trees in public space in L.A., then expanding to public projects and installations in various cities around the world. By working with fruit as media, their projects reimagine public interactions with the margins of urban space, systems of community, and narrative real-time experience. Their people- and fruit-focused programming includes such fringe activities as Public Fruit Jams, Nocturnal Fruit Forages, Public Fruit Meditations.

Food is central to the way we perceive urban space, and sharing is the economic paradigm of tomorrow. What could be a sweeter, juicier marriage of edible urban landscapes and the sharing economy than enjoying fallen fruit with new neighbours.

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