Green Urban Lunch Box
The painting by Jean-François Millet, known as “The Gleaners,” was not popular when it premiered in 1857. The French middle and upper-classes were unwilling to admit there was hunger and poverty in France; they were afraid that working-class citizens might revolt against those who controlled the empire under Napoleon III.
The contemporary idea of gleaning has earned a more respectable reputation with the rise of programs such as the one operated by Green Urban Lunchbox (GULB), a non-profit organization that promotes urban agriculture and food security in Salt Lake County.
Homeowners who register with GULB can arrange for volunteers to come and harvest their fruit rather than watching it spoil. When produce is nearly ready, homeowners can request a visit from a GULB scout who will see the size of the tree or garden and determine how many volunteers to bring. They will schedule a date for picking and show up in vans with ladders and crates to do the work.
The produce is divided into thirds, with the first portion going to the homeowner. Another third goes to volunteers. The rest is for GULB to donate to different food pantries, several free Senior Farmers Markets, and free food banks for cancer patients.
FruitShare Coordinator Darin Mann said there is also a market for secondary products made from gleaned fruit. For instance, to Mountain West Cidery for hard cider and apricots for Honest John Bitters. Several area restaurants and healthy local kitchens are partners with GULB, which provides locally sourced fruits and vegetables for their menus.
When they’re not busy harvesting, Mann said his volunteers maintain the trees they pick. Part of their mission is to promote healthy stewardship, which includes pruning those trees in the late winter and spring.
In addition, the GULB’s Back-Farms starts and maintains organic gardens in senior citizens’ backyards at no cost to the homeowners. A volunteer garden apprentice cultivates the garden during the growing season. The produce from each garden is shared among the property owners, the apprentice and free senior center farmers markets held at Salt Lake County senior centers.
The Green Urban Lunchbox currently operates other programs: The Small Farms Initiative and the Green Urban Mobile Market and Greenhouse.