At most food shelves, canned and boxed food is king. Though this is the case mostly for practical reasons, more and more research points to a simple truth: fresh fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and people of lower income, especially in urban neighborhoods, aren’t getting access to them.
While resources like community gardens cover more ground around the cities, The Minnesota Project, a non-profit with program work in local food and sustainable agriculture, has set its sights slightly higher to find a solution, onto the branches of local fruit trees.
Modeled on similar efforts in Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver, the Fruits of the City program began last year with around 100 homeowners across the metro area donating the surplus of their fruit trees. Armed with more than 200 volunteers to glean the trees, the program gathered and donated over 15,000 pounds of fruit to local food shelves.
Now in its second year, Fruits of the City is ready to build on its successes. According to Dave Glenn, Director of Operations at the Minnesota Project, they hope to surpass 25,000 pounds of donated fruit this season. Though the number seems big, with a growing network of landowners and volunteers as well as a new partnership with Second Harvest Heartland, Glenn believes it is achievable.
Fruit is not the only benefit reaped from the project. Volunteers get the chance to be outside, meet other people in their community with similar interest, and connect with the local food system. Homeowners avoid the nuisance of smelly fallen fruit, and. starting this season, will have the opportunity to take classes with an arborist from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to learn how to care for their fruit trees.
“Many homeowners we work with inherited their fruit trees or have just never learned how to take care of them,” says Glenn. Now that the fruit has a purpose however, homeowners are showing more interest in increasing yield and keeping their trees healthy.
In addition to simply increasing yield, Fruits of the City is expanding its vision. They are currently working with local community garden support group, Gardening Matters, as well as Minneapolis Park and Rec about the possibility of community orchards.
In the long term, Glenn says, the Fruits of the City vision is bigger than just the metro area. “We’re working out the bugs,” Glenn explains. “We’re building a model to take to other communities in Minnesota.”
Anyone interested in becoming more involved with Fruits of the City is invited to an informational kick-off party being held July 11th from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. at Beard’s Plaisance on Lake Harriet. Online registration at http://www.mnproject.org/food-Registration2010.html