Buy a house in Seattle and you might inherit an old garden hose, a rake…maybe a long-neglected tree whose small, irregularly shaped apples and pears overripen and drop to the ground at summer’s end.
An uncommon number of heirloom fruit trees dot the city, and local nonprofit City Fruit has an uncommon mission—harvest their surfeit of fruit from backyards and byways (homeowners register their trees online) to share with 40 local food banks and meal programs, where fresh produce is scarce.
In 2014, the organization plucked roughly 28,000 pounds of fruit, but 40 percent of it ends up unfit to eat. The biggest culprits, says City Fruit executive director Kate Morrison, are apple maggots and coddling moths, “which are about as unpleasant as they sound.” This year the nonprofit’s staff launched Save Seattle’s Apples, a campaign that hinges on the simplest of tasks: In spring, when apples are thumbnail size, tree owners cover each tiny fruit with a wax paper bag, fastening it so pests can’t get inside. More than 150 volunteers spent 873 hours combined spreading the word and packets of wax paper bags.
Though we won’t know the full impact of Save Seattle’s Apples until harvest’s end, trees that once yielded fist-size apples riddled with pests are already producing giant, healthy fruit, says Morrison—“like something you’d get in a grocery store.” Reducing the amount of composted fruit by half would mean an extra 6,000 pounds of apples—and a healthy snack for 20,000 low-income families vulnerable to hunger.