Foraging Urban Jungles For Food: One Goal, Two Different Means

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What would you do if you see bountiful produce in yards, on the side of the road, next to buildings, untended and ignored? You may either pick the fruit and enjoy it or walk away thinking it’s not yours to harvest.

Picking Plums: Image Credit- Concrete Jungle

Some people and organizations are just not letting perfectly good produce go to waste. Concrete Jungle is a volunteer-run, Atlanta-based organization that helps distribute unused food to the hungry, started in 2009 by Craig Durkin and Aubrey Daniels.

“The organization grew from Craig and Aubrey, and several friends noticing the large amount of apples growing all over Atlanta, and they would hold an annual Ciderfest to turn them all in to apple cider. After several years of increasing apple harvests, the scale of fresh produce going to waste in Atlanta became apparent, and Concrete Jungle was born.”

Concrete Jungle receives almost all of its food from the hundreds of fruit and nut trees growing in the Atlanta area. Most of these trees are untended and ignored, with their bounty being wasted to wildlife while the poor and homeless struggle to include any fresh produce in their diet.

With the help of volunteers, the organization pick fruits, nuts, and vegetables throughout metro Atlanta and the surrounding areas and donate as much of the harvest as possible to organizations feeding Atlanta’s hungry. Into its third year of operations, Concrete Jungle has so far donated more than 4,000 pounds of fresh, local and organic produce to local organizations.

How does Concrete Jungle find trees?-  They find trees through a variety of sources: people donate their trees for picking, word of mouth, and through spotting and identifying trees from daily wanderings around Atlanta. 

As they go about foraging urban forests, the organization keeps everything legal, cautions volunteers against trespassing and does not pick fruit on foreclosed properties. A number of organizations like Concrete Jungle are sprouting all over the country who are doing a wonderful job trying to curb food waste.

But there may be other foraging methods that are not exactly black and white.

This brings us to another fad that is sweeping recession-hit towns across the country- foraging on bank-owned and foreclosed properties. According to this recently published article in the NY Times-

…with more and more properties in foreclosure and large stretches of vacant lots available in some cities, a new, guerrilla-style harvest is taking shape.

In Atlanta, where one in 50 homes is in foreclosure, there is an underground network among the homeless who work the gardens and trees around vacant homes, harvesting produce that would otherwise be wasted away. Although this is easily trespassing, these urban foragers simply want to save the food from wastage.

Kelly Callahan, who lives in a neighborhood with a large number of foreclosures, picks produce that is neglected on bank-owned properties. She says candidly-

“If food is going bad on the vine,” she said, that says something about us as a society. “It doesn’t matter if the bank owns it. We should be more communal than that.”

Legal issues or not, this is definitely food for thought. What do you think about foraging on foreclosed properties? What is worse – illegal trespassing or criminal waste of food? We will love to hear from you!

More on foraging from our sister site, Green Living Ideas!


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