2 Utah organizations with similar missions partner to reduce food waste

Wednesday , August 09, 2017 - 5:00 AM


OGDEN — O-Town Kitchen is expanding its resources by partnering with a Salt Lake City organization that brings together volunteers to pick unused fruit. 

Green Urban Lunch Box is a nonprofit that has a variety of programs that bring fresh food to people, fight hunger and prevent food waste. One of the programs the organization runs is Fruitshare

“The idea was that there are all these fruit trees in people’s yards that they weren’t using and were just going to waste,” said Shawn Peterson, executive director and founder of Green Urban Lunch Box. “At the same time, there are people in our community who don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Individuals interested in having their fruit picked can register the trees online at gulb.org. Guidelines are provided on the website for tree maintenance and alerting the Green Urban Lunch Box to ripe fruit. People interested in volunteering can find more information on the website as well.

When the fruit is picked, a third goes to the owner, a third to the volunteers, and a third is used for hunger relief. However, Peterson said homeowners and volunteers rarely take their full third, which leaves excess fruit.

To put this remaining fruit to use and gain funding for the program, Green Urban Lunch Box has formed partnerships with food businesses like O-Town Kitchen.

O-Town Kitchen, an Ogden-based benefit corporation, creates jobs for single mothers by making jam from food that would otherwise go to waste. O-Town founder Isaac Farley said he’d wanted to get in touch with Green Urban Lunch Box for some time, but with all the responsibilities of running a business, it just never happened.

However, in March, Farley spoke at the Intermountain Sustainability Summit at Weber State University, which Peterson was also attending. It turned out Peterson, too, had been intending to contact Farley for a while. The two discussed how their organizations could work together and in May formed a partnership.

Green Urban Lunch Box provides the fruit to businesses to make products and then receives a portion of the sales from those products. 

Farley is grateful for Fruitshare because it provides O-Town Kitchen a resource it wasn’t able to get on its own.

“(The) Fruitshare program is the coolest thing because we get offers all the time to go pick people’s unused fruit trees,” Farley said. “We do a little bit of that, but frankly we just don’t have the manpower to be able to pick all of the fruit ...”

As business has increased for O-Town Kitchen, Farley said it has been harder to focus on the food waste side of the mission and still have enough resources to meet the demand for jam.

The partnership with Green Urban Lunch Box has made that goal more attainable. For example, Farley said, the apricot lavender jam O-Town Kitchen has sold this summer is made almost exclusively with fruit from the Fruitshare.

“Them becoming one of our food suppliers has helped to reinforce that second part of our mission, about saving perfectly edible food from going to waste,” Farley said.

Although Fruitshare mostly serves Salt Lake County, Peterson said volunteers do harvest some fruit in Layton, and would love to be harvesting farther north.

Farley said he also hopes to create a version of the program to serve Weber County that would utilize local trees and volunteers so as not to overwhelm Green Urban Lunch Box’s resources.

“If we were able to start something similar up here, it would be able to increase our impact,” Farley said. “Not only would we have more fruit to make jam out of, but we would be able redistribute it throughout the community.”

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