Loss of Out-of-State Fruits and Vegetables Normally Shared By Other Western Food Banks Will Require St. Mary’s To Buy More Product

Phoenix, AZ – In response a decision by the United State Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service to impose quarantine on all Arizona citrus due to the result of multiple Sweet Orange Scab (SOS) discoveries in Maricopa and Yuma counties, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance will end its Citrus Gleaning Program immediately for the 2011 season.

Normally, the Food Bank would continue to glean trees in Valley neighborhoods and accept citrus donations until Mar. 31.

Sweet orange scab is a fungal disease of citrus that results in unsightly, scab-like lesions developing on the fruit rinds. The damage produced is superficial and does not affect internal fruit quality but can impact fresh fruit marketing. As a result, all citrus intended for shipment outside of the state must we washed and packed according to specific protocols which would take time beyond the end of gleaning season to enact.

St. Mary’s has already gleaned enough oranges and grapefruits for in-state distribution to other food banks and organizations, but will be unable to share its citrus with food banks in other states. As a result, the amount of fruits and vegetables normally shipped to St. Mary’s through this sharing process will be impacted – forcing the Food Bank to purchase such items to continue to provide the 275,000 meals it distributed daily to two-thirds of Arizona’s 15 counties.

“We have come to count on our incredibly successful gleaning program to help the Food Bank through the winter and spring – both as a staple of our emergency food boxes and as a way to ensure we have a variety of fresh food to offer the hungry of Arizona by exchanging surplus with other states,” St. Mary’s President and CEO Terry Shannon said. “The USDA quarantine will leave us with no other alternative than to purchase many of the items we have come to count on from other sources. Combined with the recent meteoric rise in gasoline prices, it’s a tough 1-2 punch for the Food Bank to absorb.”

Those still on the waiting list for home gleaning will be notified of the suspension. St. Mary’s will, however, accept citrus donations delivered to our locations in Phoenix (2831 N. 31st Avenue), Surprise, (13050 W. Elm Street) and Flagstaff (1801 West Route 66) until the quality is such that the citrus is not fit for distribution to agencies and clients.


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