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 In Case Studies, Current Events, Data Resources for Nonprofits, Interactive Data Viz

In keeping with our August theme of looking at the different ways nonprofits are using data for social good, I’d like to highlight the cool work going on at Falling Fruit. Check it out!

How much attention do you pay to the trees in your neighbourhood? If you live in a rural area, or even a suburban one, the sight of ripe fruit hanging on trees is probably a familiar one. And considering that fruit (in most cases) belongs to someone who planted that tree deliberately, you probably give it very little thought. But what about urban trees? How often have you paid attention to the fruit growing on trees that line downtown streets? (Or worse, fruit that splatters the sidewalk because the tree was planted there for decoration — not as a food source?)

The folks at Falling Fruit are paying attention. And they want you to as well. They’re using data for social good in two ways: to reduce food waste and to provide resources for those in need of free food.

The Idea Behind Falling Fruit

Farmers plant their trees with a very specific purpose — their livelihood. But many urban gardens include fruit-bearing and edible trees simply because they are attractive or will fare well in particular soil and light conditions. So what happens to the fruit? In many cases, it is neglected and left to fall on the ground.

The team at Falling Fruit saw an opportunity to solve two problems at once:

  • Public fruit trees were dropping rotting fruit, making an unattractive mess
  • People are going hungry because they can’t afford to buy food

From their site:

Falling Fruit is a massive, collaborative map of the urban harvest. By uniting the efforts of foragers, freegans, and foresters everywhere, the map already points to over a half million food sources around the world.

Using data for social good can be as simple as sharing information on where resources are.

Falling Fruit maps free food sources around the world. (From

Falling Fruit combines open datasets from municipal and regional governments, universities, and other organizations with community maps developed by volunteers who submit food sources in their neighbourhoods. They acknowledge that they are not the only organization doing what they do — but they aim to be the most comprehensive.

Can You Use Data for Social Good?

Falling Fruit’s approach to using data for social good is unique. Rather than sharing data with other organizations or using external data to improve their own processes, their goal is to share open data with the public. They want to ensure the information gets to the people who need it.

Does that fit with your team’s efforts?

Do you work with a nonprofit that could improve a situation in your community by collecting and sharing open data? There are a lot of great places you can access public data:

  • Gates Open Research is the new open data portal being launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate data sharing between researchers and social sector organizations
  • Contact your local or national government to see if they have an open data portal
  • Download your free copy of our Open Data Catalogue for our latest list of free open data sources.

Of course, the team at Datassist is always here to help too. Drop us a line if you’d like hands-on assistance with your social sector data project.


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