Avogeddon in Philadelphia: Thousands flock to FDR Park for free avocados from Sharing Excess

“The word really got out there,” said the nonprofit’s founder. “We’ve never had a distribution event like this.”

Philly resident Jake Madeira and his 9-month-old daughter Marlowe pose with their free avocados

Philly resident Jake Madeira and his 9-month-old daughter Marlowe pose with their free avocados

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
erinblewett

Avocado toast apparently no longer has a chokehold on millennial diets, because there’s a surplus — so much that it has led to a huge, multi-day avocado party in Philadelphia.

Food redistribution nonprofit Sharing Excess, which lucked into millions of the guac-favorite fruit, announced a three-day event at FDR Park, with the sole purpose of giving away thousands of excess avocados. The news spread like wildfire, and people showed up to take advantage.

Hundreds of cars waited in an “Avogeddon” line Wednesday afternoon that stretched from inside the South Philly park and down Pattinson Avenue, while others came on bike and foot. News helicopters even circled overhead.

“The word really got out there, we’ve never had a distribution event like this,” said Sharing Excess founder Evan Ehlers, who was dressed up as an avocado. “We already ordered two more truckloads for tomorrow.”


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Jake Madeira and his nine-month-old daughter Marlowe showed up at the behest of his wife after she heard about it through work. They plan to make themselves some guacamole with their haul, while baby Marlowe will take avocado in any form.

“She loves avocado,” Madeira said. “So we can pretty much just give it to her plain and she’ll be happy.”

Sharing Excess founder Evan Ehlers gives a thumbs up while transporting avocados, while dressed up as the fruit, at Avogeddon in FDR Park on Wednesday

Sharing Excess founder Evan Ehlers gives a thumbs up while transporting avocados, while dressed up as the fruit, at Avogeddon in FDR Park on Wednesday

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

Making people happy is one of the things Sharing Excess does well. The organization is a grassroots collective that reroutes excess food from restaurants that would have been disposed of into the hands of people and nonprofits in need.

Ehlers founded it in 2018 while he was attending Drexel, when he decided to donate food from the meal swipes he had left when the semester ended. The idea spread, and he turned it into a formal organization.

Efforts ramped up hugely in March 2020 when the city’s restaurants and businesses stood still after sudden pandemic closures. Since its founding, Sharing Excess has rescued more than $9 million worth of fresh food, per its website, and now redistributes over 500,000 lbs. each month. In addition to helping hungry people, the org also touts its environmental impact, since food waste accounts for a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions.

Avocados were everywhere at Avogeddon at FDR Park on Wednesday

Avocados were everywhere at Avogeddon at FDR Park on Wednesday

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

Now, as a massive surplus of avocados hits the food industry — it’s recently been a big problem in Australia, per the Wall Street Journal, though Sharing Excess said its overflow was from South America — the org is stepping in to make sure the fruit is put into the hands of as many Philadelphians as possible.

Christine Gyaw and her niece Bugey Lo took home dozens of avocados to share with family

Christine Gyaw and her niece Bugey Lo took home dozens of avocados to share with family

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

Christine Gyaw, who owned the now-closed Rangoon restaurant in Chinatown, said friends told her about it. Gyaw and her niece Bugey Lo came to the event with multiple recipes in mind for their avocados.

“My daughter likes to make avocado salsa,” Gyaw said. “In Burma we make avocados with condensed milk, like a milkshake.”

During a week when the Eagles took their undefeated streak to 6-0 and the Phillies are smashing up the postseason schedule, who could resist another reason to party?

Angel Hernandez proudly shows off his newly acquired avocados at FDR Park on Wednesday, before heading back to work at a nearby UPS facility.

Angel Hernandez proudly shows off his newly acquired avocados at FDR Park on Wednesday, before heading back to work at a nearby UPS facility.

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

Angel Hernandez works nearby and used his lunch break at UPS to join the fun. He walked away with dozens of avocados and plans to make guacamole or avocado with rice.

“Some rice with pork chops and avocado are what I’m thinking.”

Philadelphians will never say no to free food, and the thousands of attendees carting away boxes of the fruit into waiting cars and carts were proof enough. The first day’s haul ran out earlier than expected, around 3 p.m., but it’ll be back, per Sharing Excess on Twitter.

Catherine Schmitt prepares to ride home with her bag full of avocados

Catherine Schmitt prepares to ride home with her bag full of avocados

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

South Philly resident Catherine Schmitt heard about the event through a neighborhood email blast. She wasn’t sure whether or not to attend, but decided to come through to get avocados to hand out to other residents.

“I figured why not, I can hand them out to neighbors, and my daughter likes avocados too,” she said.

Participants were able to take as many avocados as they asked for at the food giveaway on Wednesday

Participants were able to take as many avocados as they asked for at the food giveaway on Wednesday

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

On Thursday and Friday, the event will run from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., with an expected 25 tractor-trailers hauling in avocados throughout. The founder of Sharing Excess is happy with the turnout, if a little surprised at the volume.

“Maybe come a little bit later,” Ehlers said, “if you don’t want to wait in line for an hour.”

Cars were backed up to Pattison Avenue while people waited for their avocados at Avogedden in FDR Park on Wednesday

Cars were backed up to Pattison Avenue while people waited for their avocados at Avogedden in FDR Park on Wednesday

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

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