Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Thanks to FruitShare, you can watch Just Eat It for free!

The season of giving thanks for the harvest and all our other blessings is special for me this year, because I am very thankful for all the successes of the FruitShare project.
Years ago, when I first heard of Toronto’s Not Far From The Tree fruit gleaning organization, whose volunteers picked fruit from people’s backyard trees and divided it between themselves, the tree owners, and local food banks, I dreamt that such a sensible thing might exist in Barrie someday. Knowing it was beyond anything I could accomplish myself, I am very thankful that, only a year or two later, the Food Security Workshop made it possible. I put forward the idea and other attendees came forward, willing to share my dream and help make it reality.
That reality has blossomed! In our pilot season we managed to pick and donate a full tonne of fruit, exceeding our expectations and leaving many tree owners thankful for our help, pickers for the chance to harvest fresh, organic fruit right in their own community for free, and hungry families whose visits to the Barrie Food Bank returned fresh produce as well as the standard canned goods. I am still grateful to the people who joined our steering committee to launch this project, especially those who have stayed for the duration. Together we demonstrated enough resilience and longevity to have our “food forest” written into the City’s official plan.
I am thankful to grant agencies like TD Friends of the Environment and the Big Carrot for providing funding to pay a coordinator to run our second season and plant new fruit trees. Even though bad growing weather reduced somewhat the number of producing trees, our increased efficiency let us maintain and even grow our total harvest that season. I also thank businesses for providing equipment and location support that year, and volunteers at Hillcrest for partnering to get fresh local apples into their school breakfast program.
Thanksgiving is a time for family, so I would be remiss not to thank my own family for being enthusiastic pickers themselves, especially my mother and brother who have helped with so much of this year’s harvest. I also thank the family that has grown around the project – Living Green, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, and Transition Barrie which have provided volunteer and logistical support to organize FruitShare and keep it running. And our coordinator Jenna, who in her second year trusted the FruitShare family to somehow come up with the money to pay her, and dived headfirst into the work. (We’ll get you that money soon, we promise!) Under her direction, we have managed to double our harvest, picking and donating over two tonnes of fruit this year alone!
As we look forward, I imagine myself thanking the individual donors (there’s a donate button on our website) and business sponsors who will step forward and make our program financially sustainable. I’m looking at you!
Yes, we have no bananas.
To celebrate this season, we are holding a special celebration at 5:30 PM on Sunday, October 25th at the (by then former) election office of Marty Lancaster at 75 Bradford Street, featuring flavours of the season and a special Green Screen presentation of the film “Just Eat It”, about food waste issues around the world and how one family found a way to eliminate all waste from their diet. Join us on that day to give thanks, together, or visit to sign up your tree or yourself for next season or join our administrative team. And watch our website for updates on our season wrap-up event.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "FruitShare in Barrie ends another successful season on a high note"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and Vice-President of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

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