A ‘Concrete Jungle’ of produce feeds the homeless

Updated 4:42 PM EDT, Mon October 12, 2015

Story highlights

Concrete Jungle picks fresh produce in industrialized areas and provides it to homeless shelters and food banks

It started with friends who had apples left over from a party, and it has now mapped more than 2,500 fruit trees in the metropolitan Atlanta area

Concrete Jungle plans to expand to other metropolitan cities across the United States

(CNN) —  

A single cider press and large quantities of apples may seem to portray an autumn harvest day at a farm, but they’re the inspiration for Concrete Jungle, a nonprofit organization in Atlanta that’s providing fresh produce to the city’s homeless population.

Several years ago, after Craig Durkin, Aubrey Daniels and their friends received a cider press, they decided to pick apples around the city and host a cider pressing party. Each year, the party grew in size, as did the amount of fruit they picked.

Then in 2009, when Katherine Kennedy, now the director of Concrete Jungle, said they had too many apples left over, they realized they could put that fruit to good use.

“We should just donate these apples. We should start by picking fruit to donate and then have a cider party at the end of year,” she said. “So basically, it was a group of friends that noticed how much fruit was around the city.”

The friends donated the extra fruit to a local homeless shelter, and Concrete Jungle was born. Its mission is to provide fresh local produce to area homeless shelters and food banks.

Durkin and Daniels realized that there was a huge need in Atlanta for feeding the homeless and a large supply of readily accessible produce throughout the city.

Kennedy said Concrete Jungle works to bring a local resource to those in need. “It was a matter of two really obvious dots, like we’re taking in all of the trees, and ‘Atlanta is such a green city’ and has the most dense tree canopy of any city. We’re also taking in the fact that there’s need everywhere. We see it every day, but sometimes we’re not connecting the dots. So, Concrete Jungle just connected the dots.”

Six years after the first donation, Concrete Jungle has mapped more than 2,500 fruit trees and bushes in the metropolitan Atlanta area at interstate ramps, public parks, abandoned industrial buildings and people’s backyards.

The organization is volunteer-based and hosts picking days, when the fruit is gathered and sorted. After that, the fruit is donated to food banks and shelters, such as the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Fruit isn’t the only produce donated. The organization received a donation of land that it uses to grow vegetables, which it also donates.

Concrete Jungle is now working on a plan to create training kits so volunteer groups in other cities can start their own chapters. For more information, contact Concrete Jungle via its website (www.concrete-jungle.org/contact) or its Facebook page.