The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is a charity that tackles local food waste and food insecurity. We spoke with Farah Motani, Coordinator, to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is a volunteer-run registered charity that has been tackling local food waste and food insecurity in Vancouver since 1999. Our mission is to celebrate the bounty of the urban orchard, aid inclusive food networks and cultivate community. Our volunteers harvest surplus backyard fruit for redistribution to those experiencing barriers to accessing fresh produce. In the past 22 years, we’ve rescued over 90,000 pounds of fruit and redistributed them to different organizations that offer food programming including community centres, food hubs, daycares, senior homes, shelters and more.
What problem does it aim to solve?
The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project aims to address both the concerns of overabundance and food waste and also the insecurity and lack of access that is happening in Vancouver backyards – all in a decommodified way. In our 2021 Annual Report, VFTP President Marie Labitté shares statistics explaining how food is more expensive than it has been for decades with the price of store-bought food going up by 4% from October 2020 to 2021, and expecting it to rise between 5-7% in 2022. Similarly, reports from organizations like Second Harvest explain that in 2021, 24.6 billion pounds of food was wasted, yet 18% or 6.7 million Canadians rely on food charities. Food waste and food inaccessibility are huge areas of concern in
Vancouver and Canada.
As well, although Vancouver has many incredible organizations working towards providing access to food, we often receive feedback from our partners that it is mainly processed food, and program recipients really appreciate having access to fresh, hyper-local fruit. At Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, we honour the bounty of our local orchard by sharing it with those who need it the most, creating a deep sense of connection to one another and the land. We receive amazing stories from volunteers, tree owners and community partners, of how our fruit helps to connect people to each other and the food they eat, whether growing, harvesting, cooking or preserving.
When did you start/join it?
The project was funded in 1999, when a group of friends who were studying together noticed an abundance of fruit trees and wasted fruit in their neighbourhood, and found a way to fill the gap of providing a means for preventing food waste. I joined in 2019 when I moved to Vancouver.
What made you want to get involved?
Growing up as a first-generation Canadian in Toronto, a city with many food deserts; food security and social justice issues became a huge interest of mine. I completed my B.E.S in Environmental Studies and spent the last eight years working in the food security, non-profit, and wellness sectors in Canada, Tanzania and Nicaragua. I moved to Vancouver to go to nutrition school, and when I stumbled upon the VFTP, joining was a no-brainer as the organization combines all my passions into one, whilst doing incredible work in the city. I really value the mission of the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, and how we work from a grassroots, bottom-up, community-minded approach.
What was the situation like when you started?
When I started in 2019, we rescued 4,319 pounds of fruit and worked with 80 volunteers, 17 community groups and 47 tree owners.
How has it changed since?
This year, we rescued 10,504 pounds of fruit and worked with 167 volunteers, 21 community groups and 81 tree owners.
What more needs to be done?
We are a small, and mighty organization, with 1-2 paid positions per year and a group of incredible board members, and lots to be done!
Every year, we see an increase in demand for our services and due to limited resources, funding and capacity, we face many hardships
and challenges, including missing out on fruit rescuing opportunities, low new tree owner turnover rate, the inability to host educational workshops and as many outreach events and fulfilling key organizational tasks.
How can our readers help?
We would be so grateful for your support and have many ways to get involved including:
● Volunteer (Fruit Picker, Team Lead, Fundraising, Social Media, Workshop Facilitator, Board Member)
● Register Your Tree
● Sign up to be a Community Partner
● Distribute flyers and brochures in your neighbourhood
Our major needs for the upcoming year are fundraising and getting more Volunteer Fruit Rescue Team Leads. Fundraising is crucial for our operations, impact and programming, allowing us to harvest more fruit, recruit more volunteers and tree owners, and serve more community partners. Getting enough Team Leads, especially in August and September, is an important part of the work the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project does as having enough people in this position directly relates to the amount of fruit we can rescue each season. Team Leads pick up the fruit picking equipment, guide the Fruit Picker during the fruit picks, and drop off the fruit to our community partners after the picks. We encourage anyone in Vancouver to apply who drives, is passionate about community food security, and would like to be involved as a volunteer for approximately 5-10 fruit rescue events between July and October.
If anyone has any other ideas of ways they would like to contribute that’s not listed here (or just want to say hello!) please feel free to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any events coming up?
We are aiming to host a pruning workshop coming up in February. Our main season runs from July to October, and we start and end the season with our “Season Kick-Off” and “Season Wrap-Up” parties. We are hoping with additional support this year, we can offer educational workshops and participate in outreach events. Please feel free to stay tuned on our social media for updates.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
So hard to choose! I am constantly blown away by all the amazing organizations in Vancouver and feel very fortunate to be in a city with so many people working towards creating accessible food systems. We work with incredible charities including Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, New Chelsea Society, Strathcona Community Centre, Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Carnegie Community Centre, Jewish Family Services, Cityreach Care Society, MPA Society, YWCA, and many of the Neighbourhood Houses. Two organizations that I personally really admire are Food Stash Foundation and Food Runners.