In a city where far too many lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, opportunities for communities to create their own sources of healthy food are invaluable.
Outside Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia, a group of students plants a row of fruit trees on a grassy strip that runs along the sidewalk. On a gray, cloudy spring morning, the kids help shovel compost and mulch and dig holes for the saplings. They're making an investment in food equity in one of the most impoverished sections of Philadelphia.
"This is about knowing the food system, accessing the food system, and having the ability to change it as well," says Tykia Jerry, 18, then a junior at John Bartram High School."In five to 20 years, there's going to be a whole lot of fruit around here."
Jerry and her classmates are collaborating with the Philadelphia Orchard Project, working to increase the availability of fresh fruit in low-wealth neighborhoods, provide education about food, and build community bonds. The group identifies underutilized land where members can create and maintain orchards in schoolyards, parks, and vacant lots, then train neighbors to care for a wide variety of fruit trees, from familiar species such as apple and cherry to more novel offerings such as goumi and pawpaw. The organization started on a shoestring in 2007 and has grown to a force that now supports more than 50 orchards and 1,000 fruit trees across Philadelphia.