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Avoggedon strikes Philadelphia: One nonprofit gives away thousands of avocados

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Hey, avocado lovers - fresh avocados in Philadelphia. A Philly food distribution nonprofit called Sharing Excess is handing out hundreds of thousands of avocados this week. The event has been dubbed Avogeddon.

EVAN EHLERS: They see a walking avocado and they know they're in the right place.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That's Evan Ehlers. He's the founder of Sharing Excess. At one point in the day, he had to start fending off cars as supplies ran low, all while wearing an avocado costume.

PFEIFFER: Sharing Excess typically distributes directly to restaurants and food banks, but this three-day avocado giveaway to the general public became necessary when a massive surplus from South America oversaturated their typical channels. Ehlers says they're probably from Peru.

EHLERS: But this is, you know, over a quarter million avocados, so it's over 100,000 pounds. So it's about 50 to 100 times the size of our regular distributions.

CHANG: Dang. This comes after a shortage in the U.S. of Mexican avocados earlier this year, which is, in part, why production in Peru has been ramping up. Peruvian avocado shipments to the U.S. have risen by about 30%, so far, during 2022.

PFEIFFER: But Miguel Gomez, a professor of food marketing at Cornell, says this isn't really an issue of surplus.

MIGUEL GOMEZ: We are not overproducing avocados. It's just a question of the timing. Peruvian export window ends in September, and an avocado from Peru takes between three and four weeks to get into a wholesale market in the U.S., particularly in Philadelphia or in California.

PFEIFFER: So retailers have already moved on to selling Mexican avocados, leaving all these Peruvian avocados that have traveled so long to get here without a home.

CHANG: And all that means way too many avocados for Sharing Excess. So they decided to give them straight to the Philadelphia community because who doesn't need more avocados in their life? Harry DiNappoli certainly does.

HARRY DINAPOLI: The fellow in the barbershop where I live at Sartain Street - he told me they were giving them out over here. So I said, let me go down to check it out.

PFEIFFER: People carrying crates of about 50 avocados each. And what are they doing with all this green gold? Here's Nourhan Ibrahim with Sharing Excess.

NOURHAN IBRAHIM: I use them on scrambled eggs. I use them in pasta sauce. I use them in smoothies.

CHANG: All over the place. So if you are in the area with a craving for those pitted wonders, maybe channel 3-year-old Henry in the viral meme and say...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HENRY SIMMONS: It's an avocado. Thanks.

(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Yellowhorse Kesler
Sam Yellowhorse Kesler is an Assistant Producer for Planet Money. Previously, he's held positions at NPR's Ask Me Another & All Things Considered, and was the inaugural Code Switch Fellow. Before NPR, he interned with World Cafe from WXPN. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and continues to reside in Philadelphia. If you want to reach him, try looking in your phone contacts to see if he's there! You'd be surprised how many people are in there that you forgot about.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Sacha Pfeiffer
Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.