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'Food waste is a crime': Promoting urban harvesting to reduce waste, combat food costs

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It’s a solution one group of Londoners says is right in our own backyards.

As is the case with many food items, buying fruits, vegetables and nuts has become much more expensive, with the consumer price index showing average costs rising about 10 per cent over the last year.

Joan Brennan says there’s plenty of good food going to waste right here in the city, telling CTV News London, "Food waste is a crime. It is the crime, number one.”

She, along with friend Katelyn Landry, have joined forces with agencies dedicated to addressing food insecurity to create a new website called Forest City Treeats. It includes an interactive map directing people to where they can find trees containing fruits, vegetables and nuts throughout the urban landscape. Some are even on private property and offered up with the owner’s consent.

Brennan, a chef and catering business operator for more than 40 years, hopes it's just the beginning.

"We can get in a team of harvesters to pick that tree. So, one-third goes to the homeowner, one-third goes to the foragers and one-third goes to the food bank,” she says.

Katelyn Landry displays rose hip fruit and rose petals collected through foraging on August 29, 2022. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)So often, especially with fruit trees and nut trees, most of what's edible ends up rotting on the ground.

Katelyn Landry says urban foraging and harvesting can help address that concern for the property owner.

"They often become a nuisance and people hate those trees as a result; but different nuts that we see as a frustration on our property can be utilized,” Landry says.

The website even includes a registry where people can offer up trees on their property for harvest.

Landry runs Forij Thrills, making urban foraging an adventure, saying, "When you bring many hands together it's light work. It's fun, it's enjoyable and then we can discuss what we can make with all those fruits and all those nuts afterwards."

Brennan says similar urban fruit and nut collection initiatives have been a hit in Toronto and Vancouver. 

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