Free food, outdoorsy activity, and helping those in need — it’s a rare win-win-win. by Matt Baume
It sounds too good to be true: Free fruit, locally harvested, available to anyone who wants it? Yup, and it’s thanks to the smattering of fruit trees across the city. Take a walk around Seattle and you’ll see apples and figs and pears and grapes and berries dangling tantalizingly from the foliage. Somebody’s gotta pick and eat them.
That’s where City Fruit comes in, a nonprofit that matches volunteer harvesters with folks who own fruit-bearing plants. When the fruit ripens, someone comes along to collect it, and then the food is distributed (for free??? I know, I can’t believe it either) at several distribution sites around the city on select dates.
While the program has existed for several years, this year they’re working with the city on a new initiative called “Food Counts!” which sounds like the name of a third-grade assembly about nutrition but is actually a vital effort to share food with people in need.
The Food Counts Campaign is currently signing up volunteers from across a range of backgrounds: people who’d like to help harvest; organizations that want to provide volunteers; food banks in need of supplies; fruit-tree owners who’d like to donate their produce; and even tree-care experts who can help keep the trees healthy.
Seattle Parks and Rec is currently coordinating a Harvest Squad to collect the food, and then bring it to hungry households. While City Fruit’s boxes are available to anyone and everyone, their partnership with the city will focus on getting fruit to food banks and service organizations.
In the meantime, City Fruit is running ongoing Fruit For All pop-ups around the city. The next one is this Friday, August 7, at the Garfield Community Center on, appropriately, Cherry Street. You can register for your box of fruit in advance if you’re a City Fruit member — and joining is either $25 (a steal) or free if you pledge four hours of volunteer work.
Look, let me get personal here. I spent the first half of my morning writing about how the pandemic is going to get even worse and Republicans are going to kill us all. After all that I needed some good news, something to feel optimistic about, and reading about a bunch of people who give their time to gather food and give it to the needy really pulled me out of an abyss.
Hopefully it made you feel good too. Now imagine how good it’ll feel to get outside and pull an apple off a tree, knowing it could wind up in the hands of someone who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.