Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesting Group

Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesting Group

Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesting Group 2560 1707 Dolly Akin-Agunbiade

Working together as a community to reduce food waste

It all started 14 years ago, in 2009. Michael Stuart (Lead Coordinator) hated seeing fruit lying on the pavements and on people’s lawns rotting in his local area. This motivated him to start the Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesting Group, with the aim to reduce food waste and bring the community together.

I was keen to chat to Michael about the story behind his project.

Michael stands in a garden holding a crate of apples
Michael has been fruit harvesting for 14 years

Michael: “People who have a fruit tree but can’t reach or don’t pick the fruit ask the project to harvest them – either because they don’t like waste or to help clear their garden. Harvesting and picking is done between August and September so we have the benefits of being outside at a lovely time of year.”

“In 2022, the group saved 2.1 tonnes of apples, pears, grapes, quince and plums from going to waste and donated them to good causes.”

Benefits to the community 

Michael: “We give the fruit away for free to about 20 different local organisations, particularly to food banks and also community centres and Foodcycle who cook meals using the ‘waste’ food.”

“With the cost of living crisis, people are more aware of food banks now and that they’re a big part of local communities. I think people are certainly more motivated to see that their apples get to a food bank than they were five years ago.”

“There are people making community meals, community kitchens where they’ll cook a meal, such as FoodCycle in Camden, hostels, care homes etc. It is usually a mixed group or anybody in the streets that can share fruit from a particular street. We have a restaurant that make jam for us that we sell. There’s some sense of a network because we’re linking all these places together.”

Michael weighs one of three crates of apples - all three crates are full.

“In 2022, the group saved 2.1 tonnes of apples, pears, grapes, quince and plums from waste and donated them to good causes.”

Michael, the group’s Lead Coordinator

How to start a fruit harvesting group

Michael: “To start a group, you ideally need to find one or two people to help make it happen. Finding volunteer pickers and gardens is not so difficult. You do need someone who is happy to email or phone to arrange each pick – we’ve got 400 pickers and 300 gardens on our books and lots of places to distribute the fruit to. A group started in Barnet a couple of years ago and it’s also been successful.”

“You need £75 to start a group, for the telescopic pole with a hook and a tarpaulin, and a barrel load of enthusiasm. We make apple juice once a year at a festival and income from that pays for everything the group needs so we’re financially sustainable.”

“Each year, about 50- 60 of our pickers are active and they get to know other people who share similar values – an interest in the environment, dislike of food waste, staying local and wanting to feel more connected to where our food comes from. It is also enjoyable going out for an hour, meeting different people and seeing all that fruit falling into our net.”

“You also become more aware of your community and what’s in your area –  more aware of fruits and where food comes from.”

A family helps with the fruit harvesting, standing with a netted sheet underneath the tree to catch the apples - everyone wears a helmet to protect their heads

Find out more

Michael hopes his story will inspire you to start your own fruit harvesting group. If you are interested, Michael is happy to help you navigate setting up a group and share his knowledge and experience.

Always remember that you must get permission from the landowner if the fruit is on a private property before harvesting, including front gardens.

A small child sorts through a big box of apples, putting some in a bag ready to be donated

Photo credits: Karishma Puri

Support with food

If you’re struggling to afford food, please call us on 020 7974 4444 (option 9) or visit

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