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Walk down many a suburban street at this time of year and you will see trees stuffed with ripe fruit - much of which will simply rot and go to waste. But would you let a stranger into your garden to do the picking?
Autumn is harvest time, of course, and both city and countryside are awash with an abundance of apples, pears and blackberries. This is a free and accessible source of fresh and scrumptious fruit, waiting to be picked. And surprisingly, much of it is left to ripen, wither, fall and rot, providing sustenance only for wasps and rats.
"People are wary of fruit that doesn't come pre-packed from a supermarket," says Daniele Rinaudo, coordinator for Sheffield Abundance, a group that collects unwanted fruit from the gardens and open spaces of the city and distributes it to worthy causes. "We are so far removed these days from the food we eat, we waste so much."
The Abundance movement, which began in Sheffield in 2007 and is slowly spreading across the country, aims to change all that. Rinaudo says the South Sheffield group collects about 70% of its bounty from private gardens, and 30% from wild spaces and public land. "We're always amazed at how much is out there," he says. "At the moment, we can collect up to a ton of fruit twice a week. When you think that one good apple tree can give you 300 kilos of fruit, that's some potential."
Abundance groups don't steal fruit, they simply ask the people who own trees if they can pick it. As a local group becomes well known, tree owners will often come forward offering access to their unwanted apples or pears. "We're as proactive as we can be," says Daniele Rinaudo. "Just yesterday I knocked on one door and the lady said 'if only you'd come before'. She's got four apple trees and a pear tree. It's a typical reaction. Most people are pleased the fruit is being used."