Citrus Donations Benefit Both Homeowners And Food Bank Supply

January 24, 2014

(Photo courtesy of @StMarysFoodBank)
Citrus will be collected this Saturday and is also collected at donation times.

It takes a forklift to pick up one of the big cardboard boxes of citrus fruit at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix.

“It’s gonna get a little frosty in here," said St. Mary’s Spokesman Jerry Brown.

The oranges, grapefruits and lemons are kept in a cooler in the food bank warehouse.

“The grapefruits are huge. They’re bigger than softballs, most of them," Brown said.

There are only a couple of boxes here right now, but on Saturday, the cooler will fill with donations from around the Valley during Super Citrus Saturday. If you have extra citrus from around the yard, you can drop it off at one of four locations around the Valley. Brown said the annual event brings in tons of ripe fruit.

“We’ve gotten an excess of 100,000 pounds from past Super Saturdays. Last year, it was the rainiest day for the entire year," explained Brown. "We still received 48,000 pounds that day. So we’re hoping a combination of 73 degree weather and very bountiful harvests on fruit trees this year. That's gonna combine for our most successful drive ever.”

The drop-off locations are in what Brown calls the Valley’s richest citrus areas. That is the central corridor, Arcadia, North Scottsdale and in the West Valley, near Surprise and Sun City.
 
“There are a lot of areas that were citrus groves to begin with, and they kind of built home developments around the citrus groves," said Brown.

If you grow a lot of citrus, there are benefits to donating beyond the satisfaction of giving back. For instance, less food in the backyard means less food for unwanted critters, like roof rats.

“It is important to get that fruit off of your trees, especially if you’re in a well-developed and older area. Those roof rats really really enjoy that," said Brown. "They hide up in roofs of the houses and they come down and feed at night.”

And as temperatures rise, the fruit will rot. To make sure St. Mary’s fruit donations do not go bad, the food bank will be juicing some of it with the help of a Tempe juicing company. St. Mary’s will freeze the juice in gallon containers and will give those out through early summer. This will be especially helpful because St. Mary’s cannot trade citrus with neighboring states for other goods like it has been able to in the past, because of a citrus quarantine.

As for the fruit that is not juiced, Brown said it is a fresh staple for the emergency food boxes.

“We always try to augment with whatever we have, and fruits and vegetables are a great part of that, because those are the things that are the most difficult to buy, because they’re the most expensive in the store,” Brown said.

The fruit will also go to areas in the state where citrus does not grow in every backyard like Flagstaff.

Super Citrus Saturday runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Exact drop-off locations can be found online at firstfoodbank.org.