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Hungarian urban orchards help the homeless

Pablo Gutierrez in Budapest


In Budapest, efforts to increase green spaces go beyond mere landscaping. Community groups and city officials are utilizing these areas to cultivate food to enhance residents' quality of life and support those facing food insecurity.

Twice weekly, a group of volunteers traverse Budapest at night by bicycle on a compassionate mission. They distribute hundreds of sandwiches to homeless individuals across the city, offering warmth and sustenance.

"Our approach goes beyond simply planting trees and bushes. (we say) 'we would like to give you some sandwiches, some tea, and blankets', depending on the weather, and usually, their response is 'thank you very much'; they are grateful," says Andras Molnar, a volunteer with the Budapest Bike Maffia.

The Budapest Bike Maffia, supported by local businesses, prepares sandwiches using donated cold cuts, bread, and spreads. But their efforts don't stop there. They also cultivate vegetables in a community garden, with the homeless playing a crucial role in this initiative.

"You get ruts in life where you are depressed, but you come out to the garden once or twice, and it lifts you out of that," said Zoltan Dobi, a homeless shelter resident who works at the garden.

Betty Balassa, who oversees the community garden, was motivated to join the project by Hungary's laws targeting the homeless. "In 2018, I heard about this law brought by the Hungarian government that homeless people can be imprisoned just because they live on the streets, and I thought something needed to be done," she said.‌

Volunteers distribute hundreds of sandwiches to homeless individuals. /CGTN
Volunteers distribute hundreds of sandwiches to homeless individuals. /CGTN

Volunteers distribute hundreds of sandwiches to homeless individuals. /CGTN


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Budapest's municipal government also contributes to food security through its urban orchard program, supplying residents with produce from public orchards.

"The main idea here is that it's all free for anyone to come and take. Of course, the aim isn't for one person to gather everything but for the community to share among themselves," said András Zakar, the Director of Budapest's city parks,

Over 100 fruit trees have been planted in parks by the city during the past couple of years, and they are maintained and harvested by locals.

As community gardens and urban orchards become increasingly prevalent in Budapest, there is a growing optimism for the future. The city is sowing the seeds of a more equitable and sustainable future through collaborative efforts between citizens, NGOs, and municipal authorities.

Hungarian urban orchards help the homeless

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