Do you forage for food? This interactive online map can help.

fallen wild pears
CC BY 2.0 Matt Jiggins

Find the nearest food sources, post your own locations and pictures, and learn about the huge number of 'mappable edibles' out there.

In the summertime, one of my favourite things to do is go fruit-picking at a local farm. The fruit is fresh, seasonal, and delicious; it’s much cheaper than buying fruit at a grocery store; and I can freeze or process large batches of it. I get even more excited at the idea of free fruit – picked from wild trees that grow on public land. The good news is that we can all do it now, thanks to a giant interactive online map that was just launched in April by an organization called Falling Fruit.

For years Falling Fruit has been part of the underground ‘freegan’ and dumpster-diving community, providing information about where people can forage for food, but now its founders, Caleb Phillips and Ethan Welty, are making a push into the mainstream. Their new online map shows the locations of over half a million fruit trees, berries, nuts, herbs, vegetables, mushrooms, and other food sources around the world, including 2,500 dumpster bins.

Anyone can add new locations and pictures to the map. Phillips and Welty estimate that 500 people use the map daily – a number that’s likely to climb as summer comes. They are working on a mobile app and currently accepting donations for the project at Barnraiser.us.

One major motivator for urban foragers is the reduction of food waste. A shocking forty percent of food in the United States goes to waste. This works out to more than 20 pounds of food per person per month that gets tossed into dumpsters or garbage cans and taken to landfill sites. This food is often perfectly good and edible, but has been thrown out because it has passed its (usually meaningless) expiry date.

Not everyone will jump at the idea of going dumpster-diving, but picking ripe fruit from local fruit trees is more accessible and appealing to the general public. It’s a wonderful way to take advantage of the abundant seasonal food that surrounds us. It doesn’t directly reduce food waste, but it does divert, or at least reduce, one’s dependence on the store-based food system. It can be a great way to connect with neighbours and bring communities together in harvest. Urban foraging also empowers those with limited budgets, providing more and healthier food choices.

If you’re heading out on a fruit-picking mission or a dumpster-diving expedition, Falling Fruit reminds people to be responsible and respectful in public spaces. Ask permission from landowners. Pick only as much as you will consume. Don’t leave a permanent mark, and do watch out for chemical contamination in public areas.

Tags: Dumpster Diving | Food Miles | Food Security | Fruits & Vegetables | Urban Life

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