When the artist Julia Sherman (Salad for President), hunger relief organization Food Forward, and fruit tree service Fruitstitute first had the idea for the LA Fruit-Share, they envisioned it as an in-person, market-style swap. This was foiled by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the resulting plan is even better in Sherman’s mind.
“The original idea was to have an event that was an event. People would come and harvest their fruit and swap out, like a swap-meet, in person,” Sherman said. “Then, I thought ‘what if we did this as a dispersed event?’”
Now, Sherman says, there are two ways of participating. There are those who knew about the event and have planned for it, but also neighbors who may stumble upon boxes of free fruit in their area.
So far, over 600 people have signed up to participate in the event, with around 100 registered addresses for fruit trees. The organizers encourage more people with trees to register as the event draws closer. [Editor’s Note: See the work of Fallen Fruit Art Collective and their Endless Orchard App for more Los Angeles fruit tree-based art activism]
Sherman, a cookbook author, artist, and photographer, says that the event stemmed from her personal obsession with food waste.
“When I got to Los Angeles and I started walking around neighborhoods and seeing how much fruit was just sitting there unused, it blew my mind. I have a fruit picker and I walk around and pick fruit that’s in trees that are up for grabs, or trees that are not on people’s properties that are not being used. I started to take it to the next level during COVID and found that it was very therapeutic for me, and I started to think about how this could be a nice community event,” she said.
According to Food Forward, one in nine people in Los Angeles are living with food insecurity. This problem has only been compounded by the job loss brought by the pandemic, Sherman says.
“People are out of jobs, people are not doing well. This is a huge ongoing problem. I don’t propose that the fruit swap is going to fix that problem, but I do think it’s a step towards people thinking about how we can share the abundance of what’s out there and what doesn’t cost any money, and how what you have can be a great advantage to your neighbor,” she added.
This is the first year ever for the event, but the parties involved hope to turn it into a seasonal, biannual swap once word spreads. Those looking for more information or to sign up for the event can do so here, or follow @LAFruitShare on Instagram. The swap will be held this Sunday, July 12th, from 8:00am-8:00pm.