In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Urban Abundance is taking a do-it-yourself, socially distanced approach to this year’s fruit harvest season.
Normally, the nonprofit would lead large groups into orchards and instruct people on how to pick fruit for donation to the Clark County Food Bank. But, due to COVID-19 precautions, only volunteer events of up to five people are currently permitted.
Now through the end of October, groups of up to five can sign up online to glean fruit from an orchard or backyard. In online videos, volunteer, fruit tree expert and retired risk manager Paul Stasz explains how to do this safely. Volunteers pick up the tools they need, call the property owner before they arrive, pick pounds of fruit and donate at least half to the Clark County Food Bank. The rest they can take home and share with others.
The DIY approach was prompted by the pandemic, but it’s likely Urban Abundance will do it again because it makes sense for the tiny, grassroots organization. Lynsey Horne is the sole full-time employee at the nonprofit, which works under the umbrella of Slow Food Southwest Washington.
“This is a model the organization has been wanting to explore for a while,” Horne said.
It’s part of encouraging the culture of fruit harvesting, getting people engaged in every step in the process and giving them the tools needed to — as the group’s name implies — share in the urban abundance.
While there is a need to maintain social distance, there is also a profound need for equitable access to healthy food, Horne said
There are places throughout the county for picking fruit. It just depends on what’s ripe now versus later. Italian plums and early apple varieties are ready to be picked now, Horne said. The coming weeks will bear grapes, figs and Bartlett pears. A lot of fruit tree owners also have blackberry bushes.
Horne said Urban Abundance is using the honor system to see that at least half of participants’ pickings are donated to the Clark County Food Bank. There is a form volunteers are asked to fill out, and they can take a photo of their haul or get a receipt from the food bank.
Groups can also opt into a fundrasing competition. For a donation of at least $20 per person, groups can compete in The Great Glean Up to see who collects the most fruit. A trophy and other swag are up for grabs.
The pandemic has forced the organization to be creative in ways that will bring longevity to the organization despite its small budget, Horne said. Besides the DIY harvest, Urban Abundance started a resiliency garden program where publicly accessible gardens were installed in front of people’s homes. Urban Abundance provided the vegetable starts, compost, tools and signs saying: “Pull a weed, take what you need and save some for others.” Several are downtown and on the outskirts of Vancouver.