Alameda Backyard Growers kicked off a new initiative on Thursday to bring the city’s abundant fruit to needy residents.
The Alameda Fruit Gleaning Initiative aims to harvest fruit that would otherwise go unused and deliver it to the .
“We have an abundance of food in Alameda,” said Janice Edwards, ABG co-founder, at the organization’s monthly meeting Thursday, “and it’s found on our trees.”
The initiative aims to provide Alameda residents with healthy, nutritious food and reduce waste of unused fruit.
ABG started tracking donations six weeks ago, and in that time has donated 145 pounds—mostly of citrus fruits— to the Food Bank.
“Everything is needed, and everything is used,” said Hank Leeper, of the Food Bank.
Alameda's Fook Bank serves around 5,600 people, said Leeper, and about one third of these are children.
“It’s a heavy load,” Leeper said. “That’s every 13th or 14th person walking down the street.”
The number of Alamedans who rely on the Food Bank's resources is rising, said Leper, growing by 10 percent a year.
“We can’t continue to support those people with the same resources,” he said. “However you choose to provide help, we appreciate it.”
Residents need look no further than their own gardens. If fruit on a tree is going unused, all it takes is a call to the ABG and a volunteer will pick the fruit and bring it to the Food Bank.
“Fruit gleaning is a simple thing,” said Edwards. “All it takes is inviting [a volunteer] to pick fruit, or asking a neighbor to help pick it.”
Citrus, namely oranges and lemons, is the most common type of fruit growing in the city. Although lemons are not edible in the same way apples are, Leeper said people can find many uses for them.
“Lemons are used to make lemonade for kids, to flavor foods and even in cleaning,” said Leeper. “We’ll get rid of every one of them, no problem at all,”
Leeper said most Alamedans donate items with a long shelf life, such as pasta, canned food and cereal. Fruits and vegetables come from the local and supermarkets. But fresh produce, with its high nutrition content, especially when it’s locally grown, is in high demand.
“Things from your garden are always terrific,” Leeper said.
Leeper also recommends Alamedans to take advantage of the bounty in their backyards.
“I walk my dogs everyday, and I see fruit and lemons falling off the trees and not being utilized,” he said.
The initiative is looking to a similar project in San Francisco for guidance. The Urban Gleaning Program, run by the San Francisco Department of Public Works, allows residents to sign up online and register their trees. The department provides residents with buckets and other tools to pick fruit, and sends a volunteer to help with the gathering and distribute the collected fruit to shelters, food banks and soup kitchens.
“All we want to do is connect the extra fruit with people that need the extra fruit,” Greg Crump, community liaison at the DPW and manager of various community gardening programs, said at Thursday’s meeting.
Since it was launched in 2010, the San Francisco initiative has donated more than 2,500 pounds of fruit to residents in need.
Crump said the program has benefited from social media and good marketing. Along with a website, the departments has active Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube accounts.
His advice to the ABG is “to just do it. Jump in and watch it grow from there. Public outreach is key to success.”
The Alameda initiative, in its fledgling state, asks residents to reference ABG when donating fruit themselves to the Food bank in an effort to track the program’s progress.
ABG meetings are held the second Thursday of each month, and offer gardeners the chance to exchange gardening tips and to drop off donations of fruit and vegetables for the food bank.