Following on from a very successful first year of the project in 2015, the Fruit Exchange was continued in 2016 with some changes.

In 2015 all exchanges were coordinated by us so as to keep an accurate record of every exchange which took place. In 2016 a list of businesses was added to the website in addition to a map showing their locations, in order for the donors to contact businesses and arrange the exchanges themselves. Contact details for us were also provided in case of any problems and where help was needed.

Promotion of the project:
Social Media.
Page on website plus blog posts.
Posters and flyers designed, printed and distributed.
Posters and flyers sent to businesses to promote their involvement and inform their staff, plus pre-printed drinks vouchers so that they always had them available.
Local press coverage acquired including BBC Radio Gloucestershire interview with Amanda Godber, local newspaper articles including Stroud News, Stroud Life, Gloucester Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo.

Number of exchanges: Unknown.

Number of donors: Unknown.

Businesses who participated: 9

Total number of businesses contacted: 113

Key results, progress and feedback:

Feedback from businesses was good. They took all of the fruit which was offered to them. Those which took a lot did say that there were fewer exchanges in 2016 (expected) than in 2015 but it was all taken and used.

Feedback from donors was that the process is still not 100% smooth but that exchanges took place and vouchers were given.

Main difficulties:
1. Getting food outlets to participate.
As with year 1, getting businesses to take part was very difficult. We had hoped to spread the Fruit Exchange across the whole of Gloucestershire, however we had no businesses take part outside of the Stroud District. There was resistance for many reasons, all the same responses as in year 1. Of the 9 businesses who took part in 2015, we did not want to add their contact details to the website without confirmation from them, which took time to get. No businesses in Gloucester or Cheltenham were willing to take part unfortunately even though we had people with fruit waiting for somewhere to take it.
2. Getting volunteers.
As with the previous year, there were people who were not physically able to pick the fruit themselves (and couldn’t for other reasons). We put calls out for volunteers on our social media and website. Many of the press articles included mention of this. We also contacted many local and national volunteer organisations and added listings to their websites, got promotion on social media etc. Unfortunately even the volunteers who helped in the previous year were unable to help this year. We did receive positive communication from someone in Cheltenham who was willing to help with exchanges and even get others to help with fruit picking. Unfortunately we had no fruit for them to pick! They were also willing to provide a drop off point for anyone with fruit and nowhere to take it. This may come in useful in 2017. We also communicated with the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust who have a project collecting local apples and making juice which they sell. They were able to collect apples from several of our donors who were not able to pick their apples themselves and who we could not find volunteers for, and the GOT even paid them for their apples which they were very happy about! We promoted apple days across the county and found that several people took their apples there instead of to a local business.
3. Availability of fruit.
We did hear from several people who had abundance of fruit in 2015 that 2016 was a bad year for their produce. Berries and pears seemed to be affected the most. Some people said they had much fewer apples although others said that they had a large crop.
4. People not being proactive/not wanting to organise the exchanges themselves.
We were aware that removing ourselves from the coordination of the exchanges would result in some of the people we helped in 2015 not being able to manage the exchange themselves in 2016. This happens for many reasons: the inconvenience, busy lives, lack of time etc. We contacted several of the people from 2015 who exchanged the most fruit, and they all said that they did very few exchanges in 2016 and ‘made use of the fruit in other ways’. There is the possibility that the raising of awareness in 2015 encouraged them to at least get the fruit used in 2016 (that is the whole point of the project after all!) even if they didn’t take it to a local business. They gave more away, sold it in front of their house etc.
5. Mass of apples available in September/October.
There are a huge amount of apples which grow across Gloucestershire. Many more than local businesses are able to use. We have a local cider producer on board who accept apples in exchange for cider (Beard and Sabre) and they also held an apple day which we promoted. We also advertise apple days as a good way for locals to use their apples. However it would be useful to find other solutions. Star Anise for example, which took by far the most apples in 2015, said that they are now struggling to use so many apples and that finding someone who can produce juice/cider etc would be our best option. This still does not help use up cooking apples such as Bramleys though.

Plans for 2017:
We have outlined several ideas to expand and improve The Fruit Exchange for the third year and provide solutions to the problems of this year. Budget depending, these are:
1. Our main focus for 2017 is to involve local community groups, parish councils, village agents and any other volunteer groups more. We believe that if we can get at least 1 person on board to cover a certain area and promote the project we will have a much better chance of success. We would like to have ‘fruit wardens’ for each area – ideally someone who lives locally who has an interest in reducing waste and getting local fruit used up. Their main roles would be:
– To distribute posters and flyers (provided by us).
– To communicate with local pubs, cafes, restaurants and juice bars about taking part.
– To keep an eye out for fruit which is going to waste and communicate with the householder about the project.
– To try to enroll volunteers to help where necessary.
2. To expand the project to the whole of Gloucestershire and get more businesses on board (see above). This is much more effective when someone goes in to the business in person and discusses the project. Phoning/emailing is very time consuming and much harder work. We have found businesses more open to communication face-to-face. So getting fruit wardens involved is key to this happening.
3. To look into other possibilities for using large quantities of apples such as contacting juice/cider producers.