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Foraging Or Stealing? Harvesting Food From Abandoned Lots

Urban foraging collects unused or unwanted produce from public places. What about abandoned gardens on foreclosed lots?

Foraging has taken root in some urban areas as a means to provide fresh produce to people in need.

Concrete Jungle, an Atlanta-based volunteer organization, collects unpicked and unused food and redistributes it for the hungry. Volunteers pick fruit, nuts and vegetables from public lots and donated trees. The organization has so far donated 4,000 pounds of fresh produce.

However, others in the Atlanta area see opportunity elsewhere — foreclosed homes.

Atlanta’s foreclosure rate is near 50 percent. With all that vacant property comes abandoned gardens and fruit trees. East Atlanta resident Kelly Callahan collects produce from vacant properties in her neighborhood, some of which she donates and some she keeps.

The legality of collecting produce from bank-owned lots is questionable. Robby Astrove, who works with Concrete Jungle, says the organization dissuades volunteers from collecting on foreclosed lots. However, he does see the merit in the idea.

“I don’t think of it as stealing,” Callahan says. “These things were planted by a person who was going to harvest them. That person no longer has the ability to. It’s not like the bank people who sit in their offices are going to come out here and pick figs.”

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Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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