Spokane County, Washington - This area is home to a thriving non-profit program that has been growing right in your backyard since 2013. It aims to reduce food waste, or more accurately fruit waste, by connecting fruit growers with local families who otherwise may not have access to fresh fruit.
The Edible Tree Project was founded by former Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke, who couldn’t stand watching fresh fruit rot on lawns and sidewalks at the end of summer.
Burke created Edible Tree as a way to harvest leftover fruit and get it to people who needed it, by organizing volunteers armed with ladders and buckets who’d go out and pick the fruit.
Kendra Dean was also part of the group that started Edible Tree and she has been on its board for five years.
“We get a lot of apples, apricots, plums, pears, and cherries,” said Dean. “Any tree goes. We just ask that the tree is well-maintained and free of pests.”
Fruit tree owners go to spokaneedibletreeproject.org and register their trees and bushes. Volunteers from Edible Tree will take care of the rest.
Edible Tree covers Spokane County and its loyal and dedicated volunteers gleaned 29,536 pounds of fruit in 2021, including 18,137 pounds of apples, 345 pounds of pears, and 961 pounds of peaches and apricots.
Every piece of fruit is donated to area food banks and hunger reduction programs.
“We work with Catholic Charities’ Food For All program. They have a refrigerated unit we can use – that has been a game changer,” Dean said. “We also work with Northwest Harvest and Women and Children’s Free Restaurant.”
The non-profit doesn’t have any staff except a part-time gleaning coordinator, who works in the summer. A grant from the Avista Foundation will help support this position.
Dean said the program is growing and she is very grateful for the partnerships Edible Tree has developed both with commercial farmers and private tree owners.
“We would love to better recognize the farmers we work with,” Dean said. “And also to up our educational efforts, for instance by showing people how to take care of their trees and how to preserve the fruit they grow.”
Volunteers are always welcome, especially during the busy harvest months.
“We are fortunate to have a lot of very loyal and dedicated volunteers who do a great job,” Dean said. “But we can always use a few more, especially for the larger gleaning projects at Green Bluff.”
At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $12 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com