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Got a fruit tree in your yard? Let the ‘New Orleans Fruit Tree Project’ help you out

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
Megan Nuismer thought she could leave New Orleans and never look back. After graduating with her master’s degree in public health from Tulane University, she found herself in Portland, OR looking to try it out. Only, she missed New Orleans too much. So, she moseyed herself right on back here with some knowledge under her belt and ready to work.
 
Back in the city and going about her daily duties, Megan noticed something strange. “When I got back to New Orleans, I started to notice that there was all of this fruit all over the place that wasn’t being utilized,” she said. “At the time, I was working as an AmeriCorps assistant and we would get a ton of calls from people trying to get rid of their fruit or asking for help in harvesting it. It was like a light bulb turned on and I thought to myself, ‘I can do this.’"
New Orleans Fruit Tree Project | IntheNOLA.com
What started as an idea turned into the successful New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, “an urban harvesting program that collects fruit that would otherwise go to waste, and makes it accessible to those struggling with hunger.”
 
“The New Orleans Fruit Tree Project acts as the liaison between the network of people who have fruit and those who don’t,” Megan explained. It’s all about redistribution. There are those who have so many resources and don’t know what to do with them. They want to help, but don’t have that link to get it to the people who could use it. That’s where we come in at the Fruit Tree Project. We work with a number of organizations that help us distribute the food. At the same time, homeowners are able to contact us directly so we can serve as that middleman between those who have too much fruit and those who don’t have enough. Our mission is to redistribute, educate, and keep those resources from going to waste.”
New Orleans Fruit Tree Project | IntheNOLA.com
The New Orleans Fruit Tree Project uses a tree owner registration, where fruit tree owners on private residential properties register their trees and allow “volunteers to harvest the fruit when it is ready to be picked and donate it to area organizations that feed those in need.” In its first year in 2011, the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project harvested over 3,000 pounds of fruit that was then distributed to various local organizations. Last year marked the second season for the Fruit Tree Project where 10,000 pounds of fruit were harvested! And, they’re already over the 5,000-pound mark for this year! Instead of perfectly good fruit going to waste, the Fruit Tree Project is able to take perfectly fine fruit and get it into the hands of those who desperately need it.
 
In addition to harvesting fruit from tree owners, the Fruit Tree Project has recently partnered with Habitat for Humanity. “They are leasing us nine lots in the Upper Ninth Ward that we’re going to be developing into orchards,” said Megan. “We want to make it so that every month, there’s something to harvest. We’re gonna do figs, citrus, blueberries and a variety of other produce that will keep us harvesting year round. It’s gonna be a big effort and we’re hoping to start planning in February after Mardi Gras since it always seems to get in my way!” she finished jokingly.
New Orleans Fruit Tree Project | IntheNOLA.com
With this being the height of citrus season, the Fruit Tree Project is always looking for more tree owners to donate their produce as well as volunteers to help harvest it.
 
“We’re excited about getting those lots up and running in the Ninth Ward. We want to just keep harvesting, growing and reaching more organizations.”
 
For more information about The New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, please visit the website and Facebook.
Last modified on Friday, 25 January 2013
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