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Case Study: Vancouver Fruit Tree Project

Samuel B. Thomason


The Community University Public Inquiry (CUPI) program and Flagstaff Foodlink organization have partnered to conduct research and take action against food insecurity that community members in Flagstaff face. By looking at programs similar to Flagstaff Foodlink CUPI can incorporate tested strategies and methods from successful gleaning programs into Flagstaff Foodlink. The program is analyzed in this case study is the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project (VFTP) located in Vancouver, British Columbia. This program started small in 1999 and is celebrating its 20th year of harvesting in 2019 with a total of 68,000 pounds of fruit harvested.  The mission behind Flagstaff Foodlink and VFTP are both to prevent food waste by harvesting trees during the fruit season and donating the fruit to organizations that can distribute it to people who suffer from food insecurity. The VFTP offers fruit tree picking and fruit tree pruning for people that want their private trees to be harvested and produce more fruit to future seasons. They also offer workshops for people that would like to learn more about harvesting fruit trees, caring for the trees, and cooking with the fruit harvested. By analyzing VFTP and learning from their successes and failures we can implement this information into our current project with Flagstaff Foodlink.


        The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. They are dedicated to serving people who are challenged by food insecurity by harvesting fruit from trees around the city and donating the harvest to organizations that can redistribute the fruit to people in need. The VFTP is a donation and volunteer-based organization that harvests public and privately owned fruit trees located around Vancouver. The organization offers 2 donation options, a donation of time or money. If an individual has time to donate they can sign up to participate in a gleaning event or they can make a money donation to keep   VFTP staff employed to organize events. They also have a multitude of community partners including the Province of British Columbia, Whole Foods, The City of Vancouver, and the Britannia Community Services Centre. VFTP has developed a system where property owners with fruit trees can sign up to have volunteers organized by VFTP come and harvest their trees. The goal of VFTP is to harvest fruit from public locations and private locations around the city during peak growing season, they have established a network of 175 private fruit trees on people’s property that they can harvest. To help harvest the public trees and private trees there is also a network of 200 volunteers ready to glean during peak growing season. Fruit tree harvesting is not the only service that the VFTP provides Vancouver community members with. The organization also offers a paid for pruning service that fruit tree owners can employ to improve the health and production of their fruit trees for future years.


After looking through the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project’s work and services I have found several similarities and differences to the goal of Flagstaff Foodlink. The VFTP is doing an outstanding job at harvesting both public and private fruit although their main focus appears to be on the fruit located on private property. Through their thoroughly organized gleaning efforts, they are donating thousands of pounds to organizations around Vancouver every year. Flagstaff Foodlink has also hosted volunteer picking and community events in the past similar to what VFTP does. Flagstaff Foodlink appears to be placing a larger emphasis on community events and classes such as the community seed swap and a public fruit tree pruning workshops opposed to organizing more gleaning events like VFTP. Although the goal of these projects are the same the differences between them are more significant than the similarities.  

The CUPI and Flagstaff Foodlink partnership project goal is to create a public map that will emphasize the gleaning of public fruit rather than fruit located on private property. The question motivating our research with Flagstaff Foodlink is how can an interactive fruit tree map provide accessibility, prevent fruit waste, and decrease food insecurity in the Flagstaff Community? Our answer to this question is to create an interactive map of public fruit so anyone can go out and glean at any time without restriction. Although the amount of fruit gathered by VFTP is quite an accomplishment it involves belonging to the organization so one can glean on private property with a group and donate the fruit for redistribution. By creating our interactive map we will give every community member an opportunity to harvest food without having to be registered with an organization.

Although the main goal of our research is the same CUPI and VFTP are working to achieve these goals in very different ways. The VFTP is focused on harvesting to donate while our research is focusing on individuals gleaning for their own benefit. The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is an excellent resource that can be used in the future if Flagstaff Foodlink does decide to start a regular gleaning volunteer service. The structure that VFTP has created for their project appears to be efficient and organized in a way that has allowed them to continuously help the community of Vancouver for 20 years.


The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is absolutely achieving its goal by helping the community of Vancouver with gleaned fruit donations every year. Their organized gleaning events are structured well and have continued to gather fruit for the past 20 years. Their community events are also helping educate people about fruit tree care as well as food waste in Vancouver. The main takeaway from this organization is the well-organized system that they have created to allow volunteers to glean from private trees. Although our project is different than VFTP’s, prioritizing a similar level of organization with our public fruit tree map will benefit the community users.  


Vancouver Fruit Tree Project. (2019). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from


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