Greening - and feeding - South LA with free fruit trees

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Twenty-year-old Azael Chamu was excited. Really excited.

"I got a peach tree, man!" he said, beaming. In his left hand he held what looked like a long twig with roots hanging from one end. It will start to look more like a tree once he plants it, he said.

“Everybody knows about an apple, but peaches?" he said. "I wanted to have my own peach tree, so I could care for it, you know? And have my own fruit. They’re fuzzy. That’s what I like about them."

Chamu was among about 400 people who took home a free fruit tree from the All People's Community Center in South Los Angeles on Saturday. The trees - apple, apricot, peach, plum and nectarine - were donated by Tree People, a nonprofit.

These sorts of giveaways are important in South Los Angeles, where green space and fresh fruit aren’t always easy to find, said Éli Martinez, one of the event organizers.
She said even planting the free trees can pose a challenge.
“There isn’t a lot of space," she said. "We don’t have the free land to plant our trees because our backyards have concrete or our front yards have concrete. That’s a huge thing here in South Los Angeles.”
One possible solution: planting in the parkways, the strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. It’s public land, and city inspectors used to fine people for planting gardens there.

But inspectors have put a hold on that while City Hall works out changes to the rules.

Martinez is telling people not to wait for the new rules.
“We let folks know, go ahead, plant them in your parkways, because if we don’t do it now, nobody else is going to do it for us," she said.
Another fruit tree giveaway is scheduled for January 25th, at Lennox Middle School.

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