by Jennifer McClellan – Jan. 18, 2011 01:58 PM
The Arizona Republic
Countless citrus trees grow in the Valley’s neighborhoods, parks and golf courses.
They’re part of Arizona’s legacy as a citrus producer – citrus crops are one of the historic Five C’s that fueled Arizona’s economy, with cotton, cattle, climate and copper.
Every winter, the Valley grows ripe with an abundance of oranges, grapefruits and lemons. But always, some of that bounty is trashed, left to rot, or eaten by roof rats.
With that in mind, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance hosts its second annual Super Citrus Saturday.
The food bank hopes that Valley residents with citrus trees will donate some of their crop to the hungry.
“(The citrus) is free food that’s sitting in people’s backyards,” food bank spokesman Jerry Brown said.
People can drop off their citrus surplus from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at three locations: St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Surprise, Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ in Phoenix’s Arcadia neighborhood and North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix – all citrus-rich areas.
The food bank is looking for oranges and grapefruit because of their high nutritional value and their fill-your-stomach properties, Brown said. But, organizers will gladly accept all donations, from lemons and limes to canned food and money.
At last year’s event, St. Mary’s collected more than 20,000 pounds of citrus, despite a terrible rainstorm and unusually cold weather.
The Saturday collection is part of the food bank’s Gleaning Program, where individuals enlist volunteers to pick their citrus. In 2010, St. Mary’s collected almost 2 million pounds of citrus.
“When we can add fresh fruit to the canned goods . . . it really improves what we’re giving folks, not only in quality but nutrition,” Brown said.
About half of the citrus collected was distributed in the Valley, he said. Because of the fruit’s limited shelf life and need for citrus in other states, the other half was traded with eight Western states. In turn, St. Mary’s got apples from Washington, potatoes from Idaho and New Mexico, and plums and nectarines from California.
Citrus donations are tax-deductible, Brown said, and volunteers at each site will give receipts based on poundage.
People who donate at Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ will receive a thank-you gift from the church; a juice glass emblazoned with “Orange you glad you donated?”
“In the Arcadia area, just about every home has citrus,” Pastor Steve Davis said. “This is a great way to do outreach. It just puts people in good spirits.”
Details: 602-343-5658, firstfoodbank.org.