Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 2, 2019 on the Phat Beets Produce blog. It is re-published here, with permission and unedited. Find out more about The FruitGuys many donation partners on our GoodWorks program page.
In 2018 we co-wrote a blog post with our friends at Food First entitled The Ugly Truth About Ugly Produce about the impact that the venture-funded food Tech Company Imperfect Produce was having on our local food justice work and the grave concern we had on the diversion of this produce from the stream that serves food banks, discount grocery stores (like 99 cent store and grocery outlet) and other distribution networks.
Shortly after our blog debuted, Imperfect Produce became Imperfect Foods and the competition in the ugly food world became fierce with many more players in the food-tech world operating in most major US cities across the country. Imperfect Foods moved into the short-code market (processed foods whose expiration dates are too close to go to market). The food-tech world monetized another food stream that historically served food pantries and food banks, as well as discount grocery stores.
Crop Scientist Dr. Sarah Taber shared her thoughts on twitter most famously capturing our point in a fiery exchange tweeting “Know what happens to most of the produce that’s edible, has enough shape to survive in transit, but looks funny? IT GOES TO THE GROCERY STORES THAT POOR PEOPLE SHOP AT.” After the food fight subsided, we came to realize that focusing our energy on the UGLY World we despised took us further away from the WORK WE LOVE – BRINGING ALL PRODUCE TO THE PEOPLE.
Following our article, we were contacted by The FruitGuys, a nationwide fruit distribution company originating from San Francisco. A year after they first opened, The FruitGuys was already donating surplus, imperfect, and terminally rejected fruit to the community.
After reading our article, FruitGuys contacted us to find more ways to get their extra fruit out into the community. Within a month of the conversation, The FruitGuys was sending over a box truck loaded to the brim with organic bananas, mangoes, apples, oranges, avocados, short-code organic snacks, and so much more every Friday to Deep East Oakland. The quantity was astounding, over 3,000 pounds of beautiful fruit delivered to our farm and distribution center at Castlemont High School. We received both first and second fruit, meaning the fruit that was good enough to sell at market and some that were misshapen or a little bruised on the side.
Instead of The FruitGuys getting into the “imperfect” market, they decided to deliver it to us 50 weeks out of the year.
Fruit arrives every week at noon and is unloaded by eager teenagers awaiting its delivery. The fruit is first sorted by students and interns to be delivered to 25 classrooms each week at Castlemont High School. We then redistribute the fruit out into the community.
TESLA, The Electric Smoothie Lab Apothecary, uses the fruit to make free healing smoothies for the people. Groups such as Feed the People (The Village), The Butterfly Movement, East Oakland Collective, Food Not Bombs, POOR Magazine, People’s Kitchen, North Oakland Restorative Justice Council, and East Oakland Burrito Roll bring the fruit to encampments throughout Oakland and Berkeley. The fruit is also delivered to community clinics that share our belief in food as medicine. Each week the fruit goes to the Youth Uprising Castlemont Children’s Hospital Clinic, Roots Community Clinic, West Oakland Health Council, and Children’s Hospital Oakland Pediatrics Clinic.
This fruit is also used to make meals and snacks for the community. Every Tuesday The Self Help Hunger Program, a Black Panther Lead initiative, makes meals for more than 60 people. This program continues on the work of feeding the community for free in North Oakland, the birthplace of the Party.
The Culinary Classroom at Castlemont High School makes free smoothies, fruit leathers, and much more for students to eat daily. Our students in the Green Eatzz Youth Entrepreneurship Program make free juice weekly for students and faculty to enjoy. Our next-door neighbors at Corners Cafe and the Youth Uprising Clinic also offer free fruit daily to the community. In addition, fruit makes it to numerous community parks and libraries, including Dover St. Edible Park and the Temescal Edible Library (next to the tool lending library).
Lastly, the fruits and veggies that aren’t able to make it into the community are recycled to continue the cycle of feeding the community. Bruised brown bananas feed our flock of 25 chickens at Castlemont High School. We use soft and mushy fruits to help sustain our fleet of 100,000 soil building redworms. What is leftover then fuels our massive compost piles for our 1+ acre collaborative farm with Raised Roots, Oakland Leaf, Growing Together, SUDA and the Butterfly Movement at Castlemont High School.
This is what we call radical redistribution. Beautiful fruit for the people. If you are interested in getting free fruit for a community event in Oakland feel free to hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to help Phat Beets Produce extend its ability to get this fruit into the community please consider supporting our fundraiser for a new delivery vehicle on facebook or on gofundme.