City Fruit: Fighting Hunger With Fruit Trees

City Fruit is an innovative local charity working in Seattle, Washington to help residential fruit tree owners grow healthy fruit, harvest and use what they can, and share what they don’t need.

Why Fruit Trees?

With all the urgent problems facing the world, it may seem a little odd to focus on an organization that works to care for and harvest urban fruit trees. Why not let homeowners handle that and do something else with your time? The truth is, though, that existing urban fruit trees are a tremendous and largely untapped resource. A single standard apple trees can produce up to 10 bushels – more than 400 pounds – of fruit per year, far more than the average family can consume. Much of the extra fruit is thrown away or left to rot. Many homeowners also lack the time or knowledge to tend their fruit trees properly, causing large amounts of otherwise good fruit to be lost to pests or disease.

At the same time so much healthy, nutritious food is going to waste in urban areas, many families are going hungry. There has been growing awareness in recent years of the problem of “food deserts,” which most commonly affect inner cities. Food deserts are areas where getting access to fresh, healthy food is difficult due to a lack of grocery stores and other food distribution centers. In some cases, residents may be getting a majority of their food from gas stations and convenience stores, which typically carry primarily inexpensive but highly processed foods such as candy and chips. As a result, it becomes much harder for families that lack reliable transportation to get access to fresh, healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Poor nutrition leads to additional problems, including high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions, and can even affect children’s ability to succeed in school.

What They Do

Founded in 2008, City Fruit aims to change that. In 2009, City Fruit harvested more than 10,000 pounds of fruit and delivered it to needy families around Seattle. The fruit is distributed through partnerships with a variety of organizations serving Seattle’s hungry, including the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, which serves more than 20,000 meals per week, the Catherine Booth House, which shelters women and children who are escaping from domestic violence situations, Silvercrest Senior Housing, which provides housing for 76 low income seniors, and Little People Preschool and Childcare, a Salvation Army program enrolling 55 low income children. Fruit tree owners can sign up to receive harvest help on City Fruit’s website, or find a list of recipient organizations if they wish to harvest and donate their own fruit.

In addition to directly harvesting and distributing fruit, CityFruit also offers workshops for Seattle residents interested in improving the health and productivity of their fruit trees. The classes focus on sound organic management practices with a focus on successfully defeating locally common pests and diseases such as Pear Scab and the Apple Maggot Fly. Some classes also cover more advanced topics, such as fruit trees in permaculture systems, and using orchard mason bees for pollination. For residents unable to attend classes, CityFruit offers extensive information about growing fruit in Seattle on its website. By promoting better stewardship of Seattle’s urban forest and encouraging more fruit trees to be planted, City Fruit hopes not only to increase the city’s production of fresh, healthy, local food, but also to reduce the city’s carbon emissions, improve air quality, and beautify the city!

How You Can Help

If you are interested in supporting City Fruit’s work, you can donate on their website (please note that City Fruit is currently seeking 501(c)(3) status and donations are not yet tax-deductible) or sign up to help harvest fruit, care for trees in city parks, or do other volunteer work. You can also sign up to teach or attend a class.

You can also support City Fruit’s work by following it on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, or by contributing to its urban fruit forest mapping project.


Image credits: City Fruit and Muffet

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  1. […] but it offers many applications in the developed world as well, where organizations such as CityFruit are using tree crops to reduce hunger and improve nutrition in urban […]

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