Why Thousands Of Avocados Are Being Given Away In Philadelphia

It's been a rocky year for avocados — and even more so for their farmers across the border. Back in February, the United States Department of Agriculture suspended U.S. imports of the creamy green fruit from Michoacán (the only Mexican state with a license to export avocados to the States) on account of a "threatening phone message" to an American inspector, per The Guardian. This halt was no small blip. Resource economics expert Zhengfei Guan told Eater that avocado sales in the U.S. have "more than quadrupled" over the past two decades, which has made the fruit the object of a $2.4 billion industry. In 2020, the country imported well over 2.2 billion pounds of the stuff, per Eater. What's more, the halt left farmers in Michoacán with "hundreds of tons" of spoiled avocados on their hands, not to mention billions of dollars down the drain. 

Even when avocados make a successful journey from a farm to a U.S. grocery store — whether from Mexico, California, Florida, or Hawaii — things can still go wrong. Luckily, a growing sect of nonprofits is making the most of so-called damaged produce. In the wake of a massive surplus this week, one Philadelphia company gave away droves and droves of everyone's favorite green toast topping.

Sharing Excess' answer to 'Avodeddon'

This week, Philadelphia's FDR Park played host to more avocados than it has likely ever seen in its life — roughly 300,000, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Local nonprofit Sharing Excess invited anyone and everyone to come to its "Avogeddon" event, which came on the heels of what the organizers called "the largest avocado surplus in decades" in South America, via Instagram. In addition to shelling out pallets worth of avocados to community members, Food & Wine writes that the nonprofit donated 150,000 avocados to local food banks and restaurants. 

Sharing Excess' founder Evan Ehlers told The Washington Post that the avocados came from the California nonprofit Farmlink Project, who looked to Sharing Excess to distribute the excess. The outlet speculates that the surplus is a result of a domino effect in Mexico. The country's avocado supply may have soared after the smoke of February's USDA halt cleared, giving way to tons of unwanted produce.