City Fruit is a nonprofit of the future, both in its innovative work and its focus. It is no secret that the world is facing resource constraints. Pundits predict that the next global conflict will likely result from either water or food shortages, making clear our responsibility to safeguard against these conflicts. City Fruit does just that: it safeguards against hunger-related conflicts by diverting excess fruit to communities in need. City Fruit recognizes that, as a community, we must care for each other and work towards a more sustainable future for coming generations.
I moved to Seattle in September 2014, after four years in San Antonio, TX for undergrad and a childhood in Fresno, CA. Compared to these cities, Seattle has an abundance of fruit trees, with apples, plums, and pears growing throughout parks and neighborhoods. I loved seeing all the fruit growing on my street as I unloaded boxes of my belongings into my new apartment on the sunny and crisp September day. However, as I settled in and the month marched on, I became dismayed by how much of the fruit fell to the ground, rotted, and was wasted.
I joined City Fruit in 2015 as a University of Washington Board Fellow, and was immediately amazed by how simply the organization provides a solution to a large and widespread problem. The Food Trust’s 2013 Access to Healthy Food and Why it Matters details how low-income and communities of color are more likely to lack access to grocery stores and healthy food options and are overrepresented in the 9% of Americans who live in communities without access to healthy food retailers within one mile of their home. How does City Fruit solve this problem? We harvest fruit throughout the city and donate it to groups ranging from food banks to lunch programs to men’s and women’s shelters. Last year, we harvested 55,000 lbs of fruit. That is fruit that went to nourishing the community and combating hunger rather than rotting and wasting away.
City Fruit’s work does not end with harvesting. We recognize that a strong, resilient, and healthy community requires the education and tools to effectively manage its own resources. That is why we provide the following services and programs:
- Save Seattle’s Apples: A netting program to prevent the infiltration of pests and decimation of healthy fruit
- Tree care services ranging from pruning to routine maintenance
- Master Fruit Tree Stewards: A class designed to train residents to grow, cultivate, and care for fruit trees throughout the community
These programs work to empower Seattle residents and assist us in caring for our valuable fruit tree resource and amplify the amount of healthy fruit available to all.
City Fruit does amazing work, and I am proud to be a part of such an inventive organization. I am the most excited, though, for the next phase of our work. Seattle’s lack of diversity, growing economic inequality, and gentrification no longer remain well-kept secrets. As tech companies have brought massive wealth and high-paying jobs to Seattle, many low-income communities have been pushed south. City Fruit’s current model of harvesting fruit from wealthier and land-owning residents and donating it to food bank for distribution reinforces a charity model that NPR’s Beyond Pantries: This Food Bank Invests In The Local Community points out, does not seem to solve long-term hunger. Around 42.2 million Americans live in food-insecure homes, double the number on food stamps in 1980, with food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens increasing from 200 to 60,000 during the same time period.
Food banks provide a fantastic resource for people experiencing difficulty accessing healthy food options or in the midst of instability. However, the growth of food-insecure homes despite the boom in food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens requires that we build on the current food bank model to address long-term hunger.
City Fruit is currently in the process of reimagining its harvesting and distribution process to better include the communities it intends to serve. One idea we implemented is including communities in the harvesting process and having them take the fruit home directly to their communities. In doing so, these communities get to use and distribute the fruit on their own terms, not dictated by us, with the capacity to establish community-wide fruit-based mini economies. I am incredibly excited to see how these programs and initiatives evolve, but I believe we have made a great start.
If City Fruit’s work inspires and excites you as much as it does me, consider donating here. Or better yet, come to our celebration of the harvest, City Fruit Celebrates, where you can learn more about our work, taste from 10 different cideries and three Seattle chefs, and win a year supply of coffee! We’d love your support as we work to build a more inclusive and equitable Seattle.
City Fruit Board Member
Jeremy serves as the Board Secretary for City Fruit as well as the Director of Sustainable Innovation for TreeFree Biomass Solutions, a biotech startup working on creating more sustainable forestry and fossil fuel replacements. Jeremy’s passion is building a world fair and equitable so that everyone can experience all this world has to offer. Outside of work, Jeremy enjoys hiking, meeting new people, and partaking in new experiences. Jeremy also maintains a policy blog: https://medium.com/@jeremyerdman