The Real Sharing Economy: Where to Find Free Food

Updated 06/08/22
Found on the Facebook page of Grow Food, Not Lawns

From Merriam-Webster


transitive verb

1) to grant or give a share in—often used with with

  • shared the last of her water with us

Not from Merriam-Webster

not sharing

1) platforms that enable owners, via a smartphone app, to rent out their possessions that would otherwise sit idle, and for which the platform takes a hefty cut, dubbed the “sharing economy”

  • not sharing his backyard, he charged $1,200 per month to camp there via Airbnb

In addition to my problem with the downward spiral toward increasingly well-defined master and servant classes that these gazillion-dollar platforms encourage, the editor in me cringes every time I hear the term “sharing economy.” Redefining the word “sharing” as someone charging money for a service perverts the English language—and religion, philosophy, common decency and stuff every kindergartener knows innately. 

19+ real sharing endeavors 

The organizations and websites listed in this post share resources, prevent waste, help build community or, in most cases, accomplish all three. I hope to expand this list over time, so if you have an addition, please leave a link to it in the comments below.

Food sharing and recovery

All of these organizations provide food for free in some way. Some help divert excess food from landfill, either by enabling people to locate free produce or share what they grow with their neighbors, or by gleaning excess food on farms and distributing it to those in need. Others transform food deserts into urban gardens.


1. Falling Fruit

This website and its accompanying app provide a global map of free edible plants. Enter your address on the website and up pops a map with nearby locations for free foraging. When I entered my info, hundreds of locations popped up within just a few miles of me. Use the site to either list or find food. Check out the website here.

2. Food Is Free Project

This organization encourages people to grow food in their yards and share the excess with their neighbors. The Facebook page has a very large, engaged following. 

3. Food not Bombs

Formed in 1980 in the US, this anti-war organization has spread around the world. It collects food that would otherwise be thrown away, cooks meals and distributes it on the street to anyone who wants it. Click here for the website.

4. Guerilla Grafters

It’s motto: “Undoing capitalist civilization one branch at a time.” This group secretly grafts fruit-bearing limbs onto sterile, ornamental fruit trees in urban areas lacking access to fresh produce. The organization appears to have started in San Francisco (from what I can tell…it’s all quite secretive, and rightly so…) and has spread to other cities. Download a guerrilla grafting manual on the organization’s website here.


From the website: “OLIO is a free app that connects neighbours with each other and with local shops and cafes so that surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. Users of the app simply snap a picture of their items and add them to OLIO. Neighbours then receive customised alerts and can request anything that takes their fancy. Pick-up takes place at the home or store, an OLIO Drop Box, or another agreed location—usually on the same day.” Look for the app in the AppStore and on Google Play. Visit the website here.


6. The Gleaning Network

Part of Feedback, an environmental organization that fights to end food waste, The Gleaning Network brings together farmers with excess produce, volunteers to pick that produce and distributors to get the excess food to those in need. According to the website, “From our start in 2012 to the end of 2016, the Gleaning Network gleaned 288 tonnes of produce—equal to more than 3 million portions of fruit and veg—with over 1,500 volunteers across 154 gleaning days.”

Visit the UK site here.

Visit the EU site here.


7. Backyard Harvest (Pacific Northwest)

Covering a 4000-mile radius in the Pacific Northwest, this organization collects excess fresh produce and distributes it to those in need in the community. In 2016, it distributed over 34,000 pounds of food that otherwise would have been wasted. Visit the website here.

8. FoodShift (Northern California)

This nonprofit works with communities, businesses, schools and governments to reduce food waste through recovery and distribution of edible food. It also launched a kitchen in 2016 that produces food products from imperfect food. The kitchen hires and trains people facing challenges such as poverty, disabilities or domestic violence. Check out FoodShift’s website here.

9. GleanSLO (San Luis Obispo, California)

Located in an agricultural region about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this organization sends out volunteers to farms—or homes, or the farmers market—to rescue excess produce for distribution to those in need. Click here for the website.

10. Grow It Forward (Cottage Grove, Oregon)

This group trades and exchanges seeds, garden supplies, plant starts, excess produce—and ideas. Members meet the first Saturday of the month and also have a large online forum on Facebook. Check that out here.

11. The Ron Finley Project (Los Angeles, California)

If you haven’t watched gansta gardener Ron Finley’s inspiring TedTalk, watch it below. Ron and his organization have transformed abandoned parking lots and parkways located in the food desert of South Central LA into edible gardens for the community to enjoy. Check out the website here.

More American endeavors:

  • Ample Harvest (USA). Gardeners can search for a food pantry to donate excess homegrown produce to. Food pantries can add themselves to the list. And hungry individuals can search for these pantries. Learn more here
  • City Fruit (Seattle, WA). Volunteers will harvest your excess fruit and donate it to a food bank. Check it out here.
  • Urban Gleaners (Portland, OR). Volunteers pick collect food from restaurants, grocery stores, businesses, schools, farms and wholesalers and distribute it to people in need through various organizations. Find out more here.


12. Not Far From the Tree (Toronto, ON)

From the website: “When a [Torontonian] homeowner can’t keep up with the abundant harvest produced by their tree, they let us know and we mobilize a team of volunteers to pick the bounty. The harvest is split three ways: 1/3 is offered to the homeowner, 1/3 is shared among the volunteers, and 1/3 is delivered by bicycle to local food banks, shelters, and community kitchens. It’s a win-win-win solution!” Check out the website here.

13. Vancouver Fruit Tree Project Society (Vancouver, BC)

This non-profit picks excess fruit from backyard trees and shares it with neighbors, community centers and day cares. Since it began 16 years ago, it has rescued nearly 60,000 pounds of fruit. Visit the website here.

A few more Canadian endeavours:


14. Affordable Living SA

A joint initiative of The Government of South Australia and The Salvation Army, this organization has locations throughout South Australia, which offer food and so much more. Visit the website here.

15. Food Is Free Laneway Ballarat

Wanting to help her local neighborhood, concerned citizen Lou Ridsdale started her own Food Is Free branch at her home by putting out some of her homegrown vegetables and a “Food Is Free” sign. Those efforts have morphed into a community hub. Check out the Facebook page here.

16. Spare Harvest (mostly Australia)

Through this site, users share, swap or sell excess food they grow in their gardens or on their farms, in addition to tools, plants, cuttings and other garden materials. Click here for the website.

Pay-what-you-feel cafés and grocery stores

So money usually does exchange hands in these organizations that divert food waste from landfill, but unlike all those tech companies claiming to make the world a better place, these cafes and supermarkets actually do.

17. The Real Junk Food Project (UK)

The Real Junk Food Project network has locations in various cities in the UK, including this Brighton location. The network rescues edible food from the waste stream, cooks it and serves it on a pay-what-you-feel basis.

18. The Good Food (Germany)

The first German supermarket that sells food waste only, The Good Food rescues perfectly good food from farmers and producers and sells it on a pay-what-you-feel basis. Read about the store here or check out the store’s website here.

19. OzHarvest Supermarket (Australia)

This supermarket sells food “perfectly good, perfectly healthy and within date” food that for whatever reason, winds up at the pay-what-you-feel shop because a larger store has decided not to sell it. Read about the store here or watch the video below. Check out Waterloo location’s website.

While the news continues to depress most of us, as you can see from this short list (please help me expand it!) lots of sharing still goes on in the world.

“Imagine all the people / sharing all the world”

21 Replies to “The Real Sharing Economy: Where to Find Free Food”

  1. In the PNW we have Backyard Harvest – not sure that quite fits into your list because the food they collect goes to the food banks. But if you pick for Backyard Harvest at their events, you get to keep a percentage of what you pick.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Yes, that absolutely fits. Thank you! I’ll add it when I update the post. I’m hoping to get a few additions today 🙂

  2. Ah, so I’m not the only one who’s annoyed by the contradiction in terms that is the ‘sharing economy’!
    I’m working from home today and when your post notification landed in my inbox Jack Johnson’s ‘My Mind Is For Sale’ was playing on the radio. Good old Jack.
    There’s a Food is Free site in Ballarat, Australia which is run by an amazing woman in the laneway next to her house. I get a warm feeling inside whenever her photos pop up in my Instagram feed.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jo,
      Oh it drives me crazy! Business jargon sends me over the edge and that’s what this is. Or marketing jargon… Thanks for the link. I’ll add that to my list 🙂
      ~Anne Marie

  3. Olio should definitely be included on this list! It’s a food sharing app (app and the food listed on it are all free) that’s mostly in the UK, but they are expanding and there are some users in the US as well. I volunteer for them and it’s an awesome organisation and a great way to meet your neighbors and connect with your community (and get some amazing food for free) that was destined for the bin! Link to their website

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Oh right! I forgot about Olio. That’s a great one. Thanks so much for the addition!

  4. Fantastic post and a good reflection on the meaning of ‘sharing economy’. Unfortunately such organizations, movements are still very new in Canada where I live, but I remain hopeful to see some change!
    Isabelle (@these.wild.roots)

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Isabelle 🙂 I hope you get some too. Someone sent me a message about one in Toronto. I plan to keep updating this post as I get more suggestions. ~ Anne Marie

  5. Great post as usual! Guerilla Grafters is a fascinating idea. I think there will be more like it in the future.
    Also, Imagine is one of my fave songs – nice to see it get and airing 😉

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you! Guerilla Grafters is pretty awesome. I too love the song. Such a great message.

  6. I don’t know if Hungry Harvest would fit your definition. They are like a CSA for bruised/ugly fruit. I think they are mostly on the east coast.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Heather,
      I thought about putting them in here and also Imperfect Produce. They do the same thing. Another company I love is Credibles. It’s like crowdfunding for small food companies. You pay for your food in advance and they get money up front to keep their businesses afloat, pay for new equipment and whatnot. Maybe all three should go into a subsection of this post. Thanks for the suggestion.
      ~ Anne Marie

  7. Madeleine Lawrence says: Reply

    Always great to read some good news! I have noticed that some people have a hard time just taking something without thinking they have to give something back. This is a bit sad, and takes the fun out of giving! I am hoping my garden will be so abundant this Summer that there will be loads to give away 🙂


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Madeleine,
      We could all use more good news… Your future recipients will be very lucky! I think everyone loves to get homegrown vegetables.
      ~ Anne Marie

  8. I know of one more organization for your list! Check out Not Far From the Tree in Toronto:
    Here’s a short description from their About page:
    “Not Far From The Tree is a Toronto-based fruit picking project inspired by 3 things: the spirit of sharing, the desire to give back to our community, and a passion for environmentally sustainable living.
    Torontonians with fruit-bearing trees often have fruit to spare – everything from apples, pears and grapes to sumac, apricots and elderberry! Once they register their tree, we’ll pick their fruit and divvy up the harvest 3 ways: between the homeowner, our volunteers, and local food banks, shelters and community kitchens.”

    I’m not involved with them because I don’t live near Toronto, but they do awesome work and I keep hoping the idea will spread to more cities.

    Thank you for compiling and sharing this list here so that we can all learn about more such initiatives! That’s a great way to spread the word about those great ideas, and it will hopefully inspire more people to implement some of those in their area…

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Josiane,
      Thanks for this one. It sounds great. I’ll add it to the list 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  9. I am a gardener and so do a lot of food sharing….my plants come to their own decision about how much to grow. This year it is cherry tomatoes.
    I don’t know if you know the old joke about Zucchini abundance…folk going to church on Sunday always locked their car door…or they would be loaded up with Zucchini……This is me, only with tomatoes.
    I tend to share with neighbours and friends, but next year I think I may ask around at the food banks.

    That map of where Falling Fruit is great, there a few near me. I also know of a couple of serviceberry trees that were omitted. I shall have to check out the sites and add them to the list.

    Thank you for calling out the “not sharing” economy. This infuriates me and when folk use the term I ask ,all innocent-like, Oh! are they giving free taxi rides.

    The TED talk where the gentleman said “Growing your own food is like printing your own Money”…love,love it!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Marieann, I have heard about people leaving zucchini on neighbors’ front porches but not about the locked car doors at church. Hahaha! I can’t imagine anyone would turn down tomatoes though. I’m glad you found the Falling Fruit map useful. That would be great if you added it. I love your line about the free taxis :p “Not sharing” economy is a better name for the business model. It’s ludicrous. Marketers come up with the most ridiculous jargon. I too love that TED talk. I have a bit of a crush on Ron Finley 😉
      Enjoy your growing and sharing endeavors.
      ~ Anne Marie

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  11. Another Canadian endeavour feeding hundreds of families in Eastern Ontario (Ottawa, Montreal) Region is Full Bellies.

    1. Thank you very much for the addition. Do you know if it’s pay what you feel? I couldn’t find that info on the website (I may have been looking in the wrong spot).

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