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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Food bank bit by frost

Tucson’s Community Food Bank is discontinuing its gleaning program of citrus for the remainder of the year due to the abnormally low temperatures in the last couple of weeks, leaving much of the citrus inedible.

The program usually runs from January until April.

Only 36,000 pounds of citrus fruit were collected before the freezing temperatures, compared to more than 130,000 pounds last year, said Jack Parris, a food bank spokesperson.

The lack of citrus is definitely a challenge, according to Parris, but not devastating and will be replaced with other food donations.

Although gleaning won’t be an option to contribute to the food bank for UA students, there is still UA4Food. UA4Food is an umbrella operation that incorporates the individual food drives held by students, faculty, and staff throughout the year.

“”We have a terrific relationship with the university,”” Parris said.

UA4Food is headed by Holly Altman, director of outreach and community partnerships in the Office of Community Relations. Altman said the UA “”does a lot in terms of supporting the food bank,”” especially toward emergency food box, child hunger and nutrition programs. Altman cited the many campus-wide events, including the UA4Food Faculty and Staff Drive, from March 14 through April 6, and the Staff Advisory Council’s Stuff the CatTran event, where students and community members can bring food to University Boulevard and Cherry Avenue.

Campus food drives run into many of the same problems with netting fresh food donations and remain more focused around non-perishable food and monetary donations, Altman said.

“”Because they are perishable, the logistics of that, considering how spread out the UA is, would be difficult,”” Altman said. “”You get produce that is a couple of days old and where do you store it?””

Low temperatures make citrus hard to store, and once frozen, close to inedible according to Glenn Wright, associate research scientist at the UA Yuma Agricultural Center and citrus specialist.

Anything below 28 degrees for more than four hours, Wright said, constitutes temperatures damaging to fruit.

First, the fruit “”gets slushy on the inside as juice sacs freeze,”” Wright said, then the fruit becomes squishy to the touch, followed by a drying of the juice sacs.

Wright mentioned some varieties of citrus are more susceptible to freezing temperature than others. Lemons and limes are the most sensitive, while oranges and grapefruit have moderate resistance to cold and tangerines stand up well in cold temperatures, Wright said.

Consuming fallen fruit runs the risk of food poisoning and other illnesses. “”We don’t recommend picking them up,”” Wright said. The best thing to do is to juice them before they fall on the ground, according to Wright.

Parris said homeowners with verified, undamaged fruit can donate to the Community Food Bank and the organization will send someone to collect the fruit.

In case another sudden freeze pops up, Wright had several recommendations for protecting your citrus plants: irrigate the water around the plant because wet soil holds heat better than dry soil, cover the plant from the ground up to trap warm air in the canopy, and use old Christmas lights that produce heat, or buying a shop lamp. The idea is to keep the plant and fruit as warm as possible.

 

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