By: John Gould, Communications Assistant, Not Far From the Tree
Around the world, there is enough food produced to feed everybody; and yet a billion people go hungry each day. In a city where 1 in 7 households are food insecure, we believe the massive bounty produced by Toronto’s orchard shouldn’t fall to waste, when it can instead be shared with the community. We are Not Far From the Tree (NFFTT), Toronto’s fruit picking and sharing program. Our mission is to increase food access, promote a healthy environment and build community by empowering Torontonians to pick and share the 1.5 million pounds of fruit that grows in the city every year. The bounty from each fruit pick is split 3 ways: ⅓ is provided to the tree owner , ⅓ is split among the picking volunteers, and ⅓ is delivered via cargo bike to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens in the neighbourhood.
NFFTT connects tree owners with fruit to share in their front or backyards to fruit pickers in the community who are willing to harvest the yield and put it to good use. A third of the bounty is donated to 35 different social service agency partners in Toronto, including food banks, community kitchens, supportive housing programs, and community health centres. Together these agencies feed over 4,000 people per year, and include fruit as healthy snacks, incorporate it into their meal programs, or put it to use in preserving workshops. We act almost as an intermediary —providing that step of knocking on a stranger’s door and asking, “Hey, can we harvest your fruit?”. Through the simple act of harvesting fruit, we are able to build relationships between volunteers and neighbours and offer a chance to educate the public about issues like food access, all while having some fun.
We are also committed to building resilient food systems. Local and low carbon food systems have a key role in abating climate change, maintaining biodiversity, and feeding communities. In addition to picking and sharing fruit, we also encourage the planting of new fruit trees, and the proper stewardship and maintenance of trees so they remain healthy over the long term. There are over 20,000 fruit bearing trees in the city and it’s our mission to keep those numbers up. Fruit trees make up a significant portion of Toronto’s urban canopy, and in addition to providing food, they also play an important role in shading communities and providing habitat for urban wildlife including pollinators.
It is important to prune and pick fruit trees annually during their peak ripening times. Our work contributes to a participating tree’s overall health and helps to encourage fruit production for the coming years. As an aside, our model also uses cargo bikes to transport equipment and fruit, so we do not leave a carbon footprint!
Want to learn more? Read more about NFFTT, including how to get involved, here.