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Growing movement of volunteers is trying to keep London's backyard fruit bounty from going to waste

Forest City TREEats picks surplus fruit from backyards before it ends up on the ground

Colin Butler · CBC News · Posted: Sep 05, 2022 5:00 AM ET | Last Updated: September 5

High food prices and increased demand on food banks have inspired a small but expanding movement in London, Ont., where volunteers hope to harvest the bounty of the city's backyards before it goes to waste. Forest City TREEats is the work of co-founders Joan Brennan and Katelyn Landry, who hope to amass dozens of volunteers to harvest unpicked fruit on private property that would otherwise end up on the ground. The group has already created a digital map, showing locations of fruit trees where surplus fruit is ripe for the picking. "The map is for trees that are on public sites," Brennan said. "The city does not object to people coming and picking them."

Group recruiting harvesters and available fruit trees

Brennan said the group is also looking to collect locations on private property where homeowners are open to sharing their bounty with foragers. "I also ask our subscribers and people who sign onto the website to list their own trees if they want them harvested. I mean, there's no point putting them on the map if they're not able to be harvested." It's a similar idea to what's already being done in other Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Edmonton, or the international website Falling Fruit, which relies on crowd-sourcing to chart edible fruit tree maps in cities around the world. So far, Brennan has gathered 22 harvesters and 11 people with trees that are ready to be picked, but she's hoping for more, with the harvest being split three ways: between the property owner, the volunteers and the London Food Bank. Food insecurity has become an issue in the city as inflation, in the form of rising costs of housing, fuel and especially food has sapped household spending power to the point where the London Food Bank said more than 20,000 people in the city can no longer afford food, a number one of its directors called "record territory." Brennan said the Forest City TREEats project has been years in the making and was put on hold during the darkest days of the pandemic as sweeping government lockdowns ground progress to a halt. This fall would be the first official harvest season for the group, and Brennan and Landry are still recruiting both harvesters and property owners for the endeavour to both harvest fruit and populate the edible fruit map. If it's a success, she said, the group will be able to feed a lot of people — especially those who are most vulnerable to the pinch of inflation.

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