Donate your excess citrus to those in need on Saturday
Walking down any street in Tucson, tripping over a rotting orange is a common occurrence. Citrus season is here and tree limbs all over town are hanging heavy with fruit, many of which go to waste.
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is working to reduce this waste and provide fresh fruit to Tucson locals who are struggling with hunger or who might not otherwise have access to fresh food.
This Saturday, Feb. 20, will be the second of three Super Citrus Saturdays hosted by the community food bank. Trucks will be parked and ready to fill at locations around town where staff and volunteers from the food bank will be ready to accept donations of citrus fruits.
Super Citrus Saturdays was started this year to help the community food bank during gleaning season, according to spokesman Lou Medran. Each year the food bank offers a gleaning service where staff and volunteers visit people's homes and pick the citrus for them, but this year organizers are encouraging people to pick their own fruit and donate it.
"We wanted to add something to make it easier for folks if you didn't want to pay the $20 fee for us to come and pick it, you could pick it yourselves," said Mendran.
Because the food bank is far away from some parts of town, there are many locations where people can drop off their fruit across Tucson.
"We are sending out our community food bank trucks to different locations around town and parking them there for a few hours so folks can actually just bring the fruit there," said Mendran. "We tried to hit all sides of town and we are trying to make it as convenient as possible."
Last year, with the gleaning process alone, the community food bank collected 88,000 pounds of citrus. This year's numbers are looking good already, said Mendran.
"There’s a lot of citrus, this year especially — all the trees have really recovered from the freeze from a few years ago so we expect it to be probably the same amount or maybe even more," said Mendran. "Everybody’s trees are just loaded."
Considering such a high yield of citrus, none goes to waste, according to Mendran. Citrus is unloaded, sorted, bagged, and sent out in emergency food boxes as soon as the loaded trucks return to the food bank.
"We are able to collect so much because we can give so much out as quickly as it gets here," said Mendran.
Citrus makes up an important part of the food collected at the community food bank. Usually, according to Mendran, most of the food donated is non perishable and long lasting. This is a safe way to ensure the food will last until it can be given out. Fresh produce is harder to work with but just as important.
"This is our 40th anniversary so we are always looking for new ways to improve the health of the community," said Mendran, "and citrus is one of those ways that we really look forward to every spring."
Locations for donating citrus this Saturday, Feb. 20 are:
The third and final Super Citrus Saturday of this season will be March 19.