LOS ANGELES– Juan Garcia tends peach and Fuji apple trees in a community garden in South Central Los Angeles. Garcia takes his job seriously. He cares for the trees – watering and pruning them, and letting his neighbors know this garden is not a place to dump trash. “Someone’s got to look after these trees,” Garcia says. “They provide fruit for people who can’t grow their own and this year they paid us back sweetly” he says.

Juan Garcia is one of thousands of Los Angeles’ residents who has been touched by a unique and successful program that distributes fruit trees to underserved communities in Los Angeles and beyond. This month the TreePeople Fruit Tree program – the brainchild of long-time environmentalist and TreePeople founder, Andy Lipkis – celebrates its 20th birthday.

“TreePeople’s Fruit Tree program does more than green cities,” said Andy Lipkis. “It brings hope to communities by improving quality of life, raising property values and providing the potential for economic development.”

For residents of low-income neighborhoods, fresh produce is often prohibitively expensive. In the heart of Los Angeles – where concrete is more common than green space -- fruit trees allow families and community members to enjoy nutritious fruit they otherwise might not be able to afford. Since 1984, TreePeople – a thirty-year-old environmental organization -- has distributed young fruit trees locally and globally through schools, churches, elected officials and other groups. Recipients receive free training on proper planting and care of their trees from TreePeople foresters.

The Fruit Tree program began 20 years ago after TreePeople adopted nearly 26,000 bare-root fruit trees from Central Valley growers. The trees would have been burned at the end of the selling season. With the help of volunteers, those trees were given to low-income families through food banks, churches and schools. These trees bore fruit the following year.

So far this year, nearly 2,000 peach, plum, apricot, apple and nectarine trees have been distributed throughout Los Angeles including the underserved community of Sun Valley, which was recently declared an Environmental Justice Improvement Area by L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas. Recently 100 fruit trees were distributed in Sun Valley during a free two-hour tree and mulch workshop. In low-income communities such as Sun Valley and South Central Los Angeles, fruit trees provide food, shade, beauty, clean air and water, produce for sale and learning opportunities.

To date, TreePeople has given away nearly 54,000 fruit trees -- including 7,200 in Africa. For more information about TreePeople’s Fruit Tree Program please visit