In communities where foreclosures have left many houses vacant, abandoned fruit trees and backyard gardens prove tempting to neighbors. Although it is technically considered trespassing to enter the yards of foreclosed properties, many people, like Atlanta native Kelly Callahan, feel morally obligated to gather and distribute ripe fruit and vegetables.
Quoted in this New York Times article, she said, “I don’t think of it as stealing. These things were planted by a person who was going to harvest them. That person no longer has the ability to. It’s not like the bank people who sit in their offices are going to come out here and pick figs.”
As the popularity of urban gardening grows, the laws governing who can pick what and where they can pick it are becoming more fuzzy. Concrete Jungle is an Atlanta-based organization that maps out where food can be found growing on public land, making it easy for enterprising gatherers and those in need of fresh food to locate it in the city.
While Callahan’s efforts to gather and use produce from foreclosed properties are technically illegal, it seems like even more of a crime to let fresh food go to waste when so many people are in need.
I live and garden in a rural area I more than understand the frustration that comes from finding an overgrown cucumber or rotten tomato. Wasted food, especially home-grown produce, is an easily-avoided problem. I donate much of what I grow to Loaves & Fishes, a non-profit food pantry in Naperville, IL.
While many food pantries do not have the refrigerator capacity to store large amounts of fresh produce, others will happily take donated fruits and veggies.
What do you think of harvesting produce from foreclosed properties? What are some other ways to help hungry people in your community?
Photo credit: bgreenlee
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