Deep Freeze Cripples Produce Donors

Residents of southern Arizona and northern Mexico woke up on February 3 to bone-chilling cold. The low temperature in Tucson hit 18 degrees overnight, breaking the previous record of 21 degrees, set in 1910. In some areas the temperature dipped even lower.

The cold weather was uncomfortable for humans, but was devastating for water pipes and crops in our area. Citrus fruit, especially susceptible to severe frost, was destroyed by the lower temperatures.

The Community Food Bank gleaning program soon discovered that the citrus they were picking was badly damaged. The decision was made to discontinue gleaning citrus this year since most of the fruit they were picking was not edible and had to be taken to the landfill.

If a homeowner picked their citrus and could verify that it was still good, the food bank would still pick up the citrus. Last year the food bank’s gleaning program picked 126,000 pounds of citrus, but this year workers and volunteers were only able to pick about 36,000 pounds before the freeze.

The citrus from the gleaning program is normally handed out in several programs. Fortunately, we were able to replace the citrus with other donated items. More concerning is the lack of donated produce from growers in Mexico. “Since the freeze our donations
have dropped dramatically,” said Arthur Espinoza, executive director of the Nogales branch. “They just don’t have the produce. There is other product coming; we do have new donors, but they don’t have much.”

The full impact of the freeze remains to be seen, but the food bank remains confident that everyone’s food needs will be met. “Our donors may not have produce to give, but the people of southern Arizona have never let us down before. We know they won’t this time,” said Bill Carnegie, president/CEO.