Culinary Crusaders: Urban Youth Harvest

The Mission: Bring fresh fruit to seniors.
Urban Youth Harvest
Oakland kids deliver fresh-picked fruit to senior citizens. Photo © Eric Luse/San Francisco Chronicle.
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Faced with an overabundance of oranges, plums and pomegranates from trees in her Oakland, California, backyard, Rashidah Grinage had an idea: Hire local teenagers to pick excess fruit in people’s lawns and deliver it to low-income senior citizens. Urban Youth Harvest began three years ago with only four kids; today, it employs 31 of them with the help of grants and the federal stimulus fund. The teens are outfitted with bikes, thanks to another organization called Cycles of Change; they ride around the city gathering the fruit, load it onto a bike trailer, then hand-deliver it to the seniors. “A lot of the kids want to drive the trailer, but we let the supervisors do that,” jokes program coordinator Anne Louise Burdett.

The amount of produce harvested is remarkable, adding up to thousands of pounds each year. “The kids start out thinking that there can’t possibly be that much fruit in the city, but once, they brought back 250 pounds from just two yards,” Burdett says.

Not only does Urban Youth Harvest give the teens meaningful jobs within their community and provide fresh produce to people who don’t usually have access to it, but it also keeps fruit from rotting and drawing pests. The tree owners are ecstatic to have their fruit put to good use. “One guy was so happy he even made us pizza,” says Burdett. peopleunited.org.

PUBLISHED November 2009

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