Janice’s Review Blog

Valley volunteers harvest citrus for food bank

Posted on: January 30, 2010

Volunteers from St. Mary's Food Bank pick grapefruit Jan. 9, 2010.

Volunteers from St. Mary's Food Bank pick grapefruit Jan. 9, 2010.

On Saturday mornings, groups of volunteers show up at Valley residences to harvest their excess grapefruits and oranges for St. Mary’s Food Bank

The 2010 Gleaning Program hopes to surpass the 2009 record harvest of 2 million pounds of citrus.  The food bank provides all the necessary equipment to pick and gather the citrus, and the homeowner pays a tax-deductible contribution of $10 per tree to have volunteers glean the fruit. 

Tim Vetscher, ABC15 News multi-media journalist, gathered a band of volunteers through word-of-mouth and Twitter to glean trees starting on Jan. 9.  The first assignment in central Phoenix brought together Vetscher, 11-year-old Austin and five women to harvest four trees.  The homeowners also joined the party as everyone either picked grapefruit from the trees or collected the citrus in plastic milk crates to put in large cardboard containers on palettes. 

The homeowners and St. Mary's volunteers pick grapefruit while the pups provide entertainment.

The homeowners and St. Mary's volunteers pick grapefruit while the pups provide entertainment.

The camaraderie and cooperation resulted in the trees being entirely stripped clean of citrus in three hours.  Two golden retrievers entertained volunteers with their antics as they brought a tennis ball to volunteers to throw so the dogs could retrieve it.  An aging collie planted herself in the middle of the action, and never moved even when grapefruit rained down around her. 

Vetscher says that the food bank takes the citrus and swaps it to other states for needed items.  For example they may trade grapefruit for Idaho potatoes or oranges for Washington apples.  Nevertheless, nothing goes to waste and in the some cases, it also helps the homeowners to cut down on the occurence of roof rats. 

On Saturday, Jan. 16, the group gleaned 12 trees with 10 volunteers and Jan. 23, they gleaned 44 trees with 16 people.  The group moved from central Phoenix to Arcadia for their Jan. 30 assignment and gleaned 18 trees with the help of 10 volunteers. 

St. Mary's Food Bank volunteers pick grapefruit from 18 trees in the Arcadia section of Phoenix.

St. Mary's Food Bank volunteers pick grapefruit from 18 trees in the Arcadia section of Phoenix.

This volunteer opportunity not only presents a way to supply the food bank with citrus, but it brings volunteers from all walks of life together to work outside in the gorgeous Arizona weather and work together for a great cause.  Friends show up and share the latest news of the week.  Families come out and work together to donate their time to a great cause. Also homeowners thank the volunteers for doing the hard work for them.

Photos by Janice L. Semmel

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