St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance is asking Valley residents to collect citrus fruit from trees in their yards or neighborhoods to help fill food boxes in Arizona and several other states.
For “Super Citrus Saturday” this weekend, local residents can drop off oranges and grapefruits at three Valley locations, including the St. Mary’s Food Bank’s Surprise location, 13050 W. Elm St., between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
St. Mary’s communications specialist Jerry Brown said citrus is a great way to fill winter food boxes.
“This is a big deal for us,” Brown said. “It’s a huge part of what we do during the winter time.”
Brown said the first Super Citrus Saturday event last year yielded 20,000 pounds of citrus, for a total of about 2 million pounds collected for the year.
Because so much citrus is collected, St. Mary’s is able to share with other states, trading for that state’s staples. Last year, St. Mary’s received apples from Washington, potatoes from Idaho and New Mexico, plums and nectarines from California, as well as non-perishable products in the exchange.
“Everyone gets a really balanced plate,” Brown said.
With the addition of the Surprise drop-off location, St. Mary’s hopes to expand on last year’s success to give homeowners increased convenience to make the tax-deductible produce donations to the food bank.
“We’re hoping to get a really good crop of citrus this year,” Brown said, noting even though freezing weather around the holidays puts citrus trees at risk for frost damage, plants not in outlying areas were likely not affected.
St. Mary’s will also be accepting citrus donations at North Phoenix Baptist Church (Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road) and Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ (56th Street and Lafayette).
For people who would rather not pick their own citrus, St. Mary’s volunteers will glean the fruit for $10, but Brown pointed out they will only do the gleaning until March 31, and there is already 700 people on the waiting list.
The food bank needs more volunteers to glean in February and March, especially in the West Valley and Scottsdale. Anyone interested can call the Super Citrus hotline at 623-343-5658 and ask for Crystal or leave a message.
Harvey Noteboom and his wife Melanie have been gleaning citrus for about 12 years, collecting hundreds of thousands of pounds each year as part of their Sun City Grand-based gleaning volunteer group.
“It’s a worthy cause, and it’s good exercise,” Noteboom said.
The group, usually with 45 to 60 volunteers, picks citrus solely in Sun City, where Noteboom said residents might no longer able to take care of their trees.
The gleaning is a lot of work, since picking, gathering, and hauling thousands of pounds of citrus is strenuous, but Noteboom said there are a variety of tasks members can do whatever their activity level.
“We have a pretty well-oiled team that works well together,” Noteboom said.
Any Sun City Grand residents interested in helping out the group with gleaning can call Noteboom at 623-975-5556.