Picking Apples (Part 3)

If I ate nothing but the apples that Laura and I recently picked I bet I could live for a month without really ever feeling hungry.  (I’m sure I’d feel a lot of other things with that kind of diet, but the point is that I’d survive).  The thing is, I don’t really need all these apples to survive; though I’m not rich I’ve always had enough money to buy food.  That means that the apples are all extra food.  Nice, but not necessary. 


As I’ve thought about the vast amount of extra food that I’ve acquired in the last few days I’ve found my thoughts turning to people who don’t have food at all.  As I understand it, there are many parts of the world plagued by hunger, malnutrition, and famine.  Accordingly, while I picked apples I began to wonder why we couldn’t send all our surplus fruit to those places.


There are, of course, practical problems with sending something like apples to places like Africa.  Though it could probably be done, preserving the fruit for that long would probably be inefficient and costly (and other kinds of food would be much better to ship).  Likewise, planting apple trees in locations where there are problems with hunger would also not work because of the climate.  Thus, my conclusion was that the apples I picked could not realistically contribute to ending world hunger.


Or could they?  While there are many ways to alleviate world hunger without local apples, the fact that they may provide extra food leads me to believe that they might contribute by freeing up funds that would otherwise be spent on food.  So, for example, if I’m able to eat apples for breakfast for the next week, I have theoretically saved some money by not buying my normal food, which could then be donated to those who don’t have food (a familiar idea to my fellow Mormons out there). 


While my own charitable contributions could no doubt help many people, I can’t help but wonder if this idea could make a huge dent in world hunger.  Let’s estimate that the typical city block has 300 residents (that’s way too high if you live in the suburbs but probably low if you live in a high rise).  Now, lets imagine that each of those people ate two apples a day for breakfast for a week.  If each person normally spent one dollar on break fast, that means each person has saved seven dollars by eating apples.  Collectively, the block has saved $2100.  Now imagine if most of the blocks in a given city tried that.  Imagine if most of the cities in the United State tried it.  Very quickly there would be millions (or probably billions) of dollars.


This plan would be incredibly easy to implement.  300 people eating two apples a day for seven days would require 4200 apples.  Lets say each tree that was planted ended up being really scrawny and only produced 300 apples.  That would mean that the block of 300 people would need 14 trees.  The typical residential city block has more than 14 yards, so that would be fewer than one tree per yard.  In reality, however, each block would probably need far fewer trees (though I don’t see why they wouldn’t want even more).  Obviously it would take a few years for the trees to produce, but when they did the results could literally change the world.   


As was the case with my previous apple picking post, I know that this boils a complex problem down to an oversimplified solution.  I’m also not under the delusion that it is about to happen.  Still, it should more or less work.  It would require innovation and experimentation and would only bring about change over a long time, but it points out that the possibility of solving world problems actually exists.  My apple picking experiences have reminded me, then, that what we (myself especially) lack is simply the will to do even the simplest things to make a difference.



Filed under apples, tree

3 responses to “Picking Apples (Part 3)

  1. Jim – I came upon your blog from Rachel's. Fascinating ideas. I recently read about someone who was promoting fruit trees in cities (maybe even Boston, I can't remember). There is also a lot of thought going into vertical gardening. I guess the problem with money though is also whether money is really the solution and, if so, ensuring that the money actually gets to those who need it. I tend to get overwhelmed by these abstractions and then just go back to living as well as I can and not thinking about the rest. Thanks for making me think about it all once more.

  2. Newt, thanks for taking a look. Yeah, this is definitely a complex issue and I'm not really qualified to give any real analysis, but having an abundance of food certainly made me think about it more. I agree to, that it's hard to know if money really is making a difference. Have you heard of any good organization to donate to. Having written all this stuff, I figured I should probably put my own money where my mouth is.

  3. Jim – I am not sure really, but the sense I get is that microloan foundations, such as Kiva, are a pretty good way to get the money to people who need it and can use it. Again, I'm not really a great resource on this topic though.

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