An image showing bags of apples hanging from a white fence has circulated in multiple social media posts claiming that in Norway, it is common practice to share excess apples with those in need. This is misleading; the image was first posted by a woman who offered surplus fruit from her orchard to passersby, but her gesture is not customary in Norway.
One of the earliest versions of the claim was published on February 9, 2019, by a Facebook page called "No One Cares," which has more than 31 million followers.
It resurfaced on the social network this year, including in this Facebook post from January 19, 2021, with more than 460 shares.
A February 10, 2021 screenshot of the misleading Facebook post
The photo shows more than a dozen clear plastic bags containing about 10 apples each, hanging off a white picket fence with the caption: "In Norway, people harvest their apples and hanged (sic) them in their respective fences so that the poor, the hungry and the homeless avail fruits for free. Instead of letting apples to waste (sic)."
The same photo has circulated in memes around the world, including the United Kingdom, Nigeria, US, South Africa, Canada, Brazil, UAE, China, and Ethiopia, though not in Norway itself, according to data from the social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.
The newspaper said the photo was first published on the Facebook page of Inger Garås, a woman living in the town of Mjondalen, about 55 kilometres southwest of the capital Oslo. Garås had hung about 200 bags of apples in a week, a surplus bounty she harvested from her home orchard and which she offered for free to people passing by.
A February 10, 2021 screenshot of the 2018 article in Drammens Tidende
"Lots of apples on the fence today, first come, first served," reads the English translation of the post.
Contacted by AFP Fact Check, Garås dismissed the claim that hers was a common practice in the country.
"This is not a very normal habit in Norway," Garås told AFP Fact Check. "Most people only throw the fruit away; I think that's why the story took off."
The practice is so unusual that, as Garås explained in the Drammens Tidende article, many passersby would double-check with her before helping themselves to a bag.
"There are many who ask 'Can I really take them?' 'Yes, just help yourself,' I answer," she said in the article.
Garås told AFP Fact Check that this year, she was only able to give away a few bags of apples as the harvest was affected by "a heavy attack of worms".
An AFP journalist based in Norway, Pierre-Henry Deshayes, also confirmed that Garås' gesture is uncommon in the country.
"I've been here for 20 years and have never seen fruit hanging off fences for anyone to take. This is clearly not common practice," Deshayes said. "Truth be told, there are few poor people in Norway, and even fewer starving ones."
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