Fruits Of The City

The mid-May sun beats down on Josh Belanger’s 7th-graders as they match up kale and broccoli plants with a map of
the new raised beds on Beth El Synagogue’s south lawn in St. Louis Park. They coax lettuces and tomato starts out of
their pots, gently separating the roots and tucking them upright into the dark soil. Once every plant is in its proper
place, they take a hose and water the beds and wash the dirt from under their fingernails. Before they leave to walk
back to their classroom across the street at Benilde St. Margaret’s, they help Jared Walhowe hang a sign over the brand
new vegetable oasis. In hand-painted letters it reads “The Friendship Giving Garden.”

This garden is one of six
“giving gardens” that Fruits of
the City, a 2015 WedgeShare
Recipient working to get fresh
produce to those most in need,
will set up this summer at schools
and churches around the Twin
Cities. Fruits of the City works with
volunteers to build and plant the
gardens, and then trains them to
care for the gardens throughout
the growing season. Then they
coordinate the harvest in the fall.
Half of the ensuing bounty goes to
the kids and adults who volunteered
with watering and weeding all
summer long. The other half goes
to food shelves.

Fruits of the City also operates a
microfarm at its headquarters in
New Hope, Minn., entirely run by
volunteers. Last year they grew
2,000 pounds of food, all of it
donated to food shelves. This year
they’ve added a high tunnel and
hope to grow even more food to
distribute to the city’s underserved.

But the thing they’re most known
for, and where the name originally
came from, is their fruit gleaning
program. Each year in the fall, Fruits
of the City connects apple tree
owners with their extensive food
shelf network. The owners allow
Fruits of the City volunteers onto
their property to handpick all the
fruit they can manage, which is then
donated to the disadvantaged.
They currently harvest from about
200 trees in the backyards of
private homes and from 24 local
orchards in the area.

Fruits of the City got its start
in 2009, as an initiative of The
Minnesota Project. Back then
they just harvested apples.
But in the years since then,
it has grown to include a
host of giving gardens, the
microfarm, farmers’ market
collections and community
garden donations. To date,
the combined programs
have harvested, collected,
and distributed over
400,000 pounds of fresh fruits and
vegetables for partner food
shelves. “It really starts to
add up,” said Walhowe, the
program manager for Fruits
of the City, which recently
changed roofs and is now
operated by The Food
Group, after The Minnesota
Project shuttered its doors
earlier this year. And while
the impact may remain
small compared to canned
food donations, any amount of
fresh produce is welcome and
appreciated.

“Everyone knows how to eat an
apple,” said Walhowe. “And with
the gardens, I tell the kids it’s like
a food drive that keeps going
all year.”

If you’re interested…
in registering your fruit tree with Fruits
of the City, visit their website at
thefoodgroupmn.org/fruits and
contact Jared Walhowe. You can also
sign up there to volunteer at a giving
garden this summer or with the apple
harvest in the fall.