Kickstarters for Food: How the "New Orleans Fruit Tree Project" Could Save Its City's Struggling Families with over Seven Tons of Fruit

October 2, 2012 12:10 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
New Orleans
All Kickstarters for Food are geared towards feeding the people, but the New Orleans Fruit Tree project is one of the only Kickstarters that wants to feed the people for free. In January of 2011, the NOFTP harvested over 3,000 pounds of fruit that they distributed to upwards of 800 families. This last year, they set a seemingly impossible goal for themselves-- 10,000 pounds of fruit-- and met it with little more than 35 volunteers and a ton of heart. (Photo: Kickstarter)

All Kickstarters for Food are geared towards feeding the people, but the New Orleans Fruit Tree project is one of the only Kickstarters that wants to feed the people for free. In January of 2011, the NOFTP harvested over 3,000 pounds of fruit that they distributed to upwards of 800 families. This last year, they set a seemingly impossible goal for themselves-- 10,000 pounds of fruit-- and met it with little more than 35 volunteers and a ton of heart.

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This year, they're looking for your help to get 15,000 pounds of fruit to deserving families. Here's what Megan Nuismer, the project founder, had to say about working hard in the Big Easy.

FoodNRecipe's Anthony Smith: Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and what makes this project so important to you?

New Orleans Fruit Tree Project's Megan Nuismer: I am originally from Michigan and moved to New Orleans in 2008 to pursue my Masters in Public Health at Tulane University. While I was in school, I took an active interest in Food Justice and how limited access to healthy foods is compromising the health of many New Orleanians. After completing my MPH I moved to Portland, OR to get a feel for what a successful local food system looks like. I worked for the Portland Farmers Market for the summer of 2010 but missed New Orleans severely so I returned six months later. I took a position as an Americorp VISTA at Hollygrove Market & Farm, a small market that supplies only local products and produce. While there I developed the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project which kicked off in January 2011. NOFTP is important to me because it shows how much can be accomplished with limited resources (our budget last year was less than $10,000) and a wide network of dedicated individuals who love their city.

AS: Why fruit trees?

MN: When I was living in Portland I saw volunteers from the Portland Fruit Tree Project collecting cherries at a home across the street from where I lived. I was curious about it but didn't really follow up. After moving back to New Orleans, I saw a Satsuma tree with half of its fruit rotting on the ground beneath it. That's when it clicked that a Fruit Tree Project could work in New Orleans too. After that first Satsuma tree, I saw fruit everywhere! The kind of fruit trees we have in Louisiana, typically grapefruit, satsuma (a small mandarin-like citrus) and oranges, produce a ton of fruit, are easy to harvest, transport and store and are desirable by most people. This makes it the perfect food to deliever to food banks.

AS: What makes this project so specific to New Orleans?

MN: We conduct most of our harvests during citrus season, which generally runs from November to March. Growing up in the Midwest this was shocking to me! The season is a lot different then other areas of the country where fruit harvests generally take place during the spring, summer and fall. What makes this project very New Orleans is the diversity of the people we are able to work with. Whether its our volunteers who come from all over the country, or the home owners who live all over the city, to the people who are able to enjoy local, nutritious fruits, this project connects people in all kind of crazy ways, the same way this city does.

AS: How will this project shape the city for the better?

MN: Often times people don't realize how they can help until there's an avenue for them to get involved. A fruit tree owner may see the giant grapefruit tree in their yard as a burden, making a mess, going to waste and attracting all kinds of animals. When they hear about NOFTP, they are so excited to get involved and to know what was once was a burden is actually going to benefit those who are less fortunate. In 18 months, we were able to collect over 14,000 pounds of fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste. And this is from a fraction of the trees in the city! Imagine, the more our network grows, the more people have access to fresh, healthy fruit!

AS: Why are so many members of this generation of young people galvanized to urban planning, sustainability, and beautification projects?

MN: Whenever I'm asked a question like this I think of a conversation I had with my mom about Shake'n'bake and living in the suburbs. When my sister and I were growing up people didn't shop at farmers markets, raising chickens and canning meant you were 'poor' and something was probably wrong with you if you chose to ride a bike to work. Now, people in my generation see what those choices have cost us as a society. We have an obesity epidemic, people have no idea where their food comes from and most people would choose to drive a half mile down the road then actually go for a walk. Growing food, living close to where you work and choosing parks over parking lots are just some of the changes that are taking place with the younger generations. I hope these trends continue!

AS: How have you been advertising your Kickstarter?

MN: We just launched the project yesterday so as of right now we have been sending it out over Facebook and Twitter. We'll be starting a more personal email campaign next week which will include contacting past donors and others in the community that have taken an active interest.

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To learn more about this project and see how you can get involved, click through to their Kickstarter here!



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