By Angela Higginbotham
Feeding Northeast Florida and Society of St. Andrew held a successful fifth annual citrus drive on Saturday, Feb. 11. More than 400 volunteers at six locations in the Jacksonville area, including one in Mandarin, gave their time to the cause. After meeting at the six centralized locations, volunteers were put together in teams to go to homes where property owners had given permission for them to harvest their excess fruit.
The mission of the citrus drive is to help harvest fruit donated by local residents throughout the Jacksonville area. Feeding Northeast Florida rescued more than 30,000 pounds of fresh citrus that would otherwise be lost from 100 homes in the area. Mandarin alone brought in 7,496 lbs of fruit.
All of the collected fruit will be distributed to partner agencies in the region, including food pantries, soup kitchens and senior centers. The nutritious fruit will also provide a much needed immunity boost during the cold and flu season for thousands of needy individuals and families.
“It’s been amazing the see the growth of attendance and in the management from Feeding Northeast Florida,” said Brian Fullford, Mandarin site coordinator for the past five years. “The first year found us manipulating the data so that each site coordinator could manage effectively. This year our job was much easier and I could focus on being more connected with the people and empowering the volunteers.”
With the volunteer numbers growing, the donation database needs to also increase. As volunteers go out to glean, they hear about neighbors who also have trees. This year was no exception and Feeding Northeast Florida hopes to increase the list of homes visited each year.
“Society of St. Andrew is a perfect partner, advising based on their experience in the Orlando area. I’ve gleaned with them for the past eight years, and it was through them that I was able to start assisting with the harvest event. Part of me feels that it would be cool if the mayor recognized the event as a high profile citywide event — make it something Jacksonville is known for,” Fullford said.
Since the Society of St. Andrew was created in 1979, more than 45 million pounds of fresh produce have reached people in need in Florida.
Fullford said many believe the one of the greatest values of the event is the participation in being an active part of a solution. Friends bring friends to the gleanings and people enjoy being involved in making a difference, along with other citizens of varying ages. The youth are excited to glean as well and the event has become a tradition of citizens helping citizens.
Feeding Northeast Florida has learned that due to greening, scaling and bug issues experienced by the citrus industry across the state, the number of trees and yield per tree will be smaller each year until a solution to the problems are found; however, there is a great opportunity to expand the tree donor database as long as the community continues to support the mission.
About Feeding Northeast Florida: Feeding Northeast Florida is the community’s newest effort to establish food security across eight counties in Northeast Florida. Within three weeks after Feeding Northeast Florida was organized in February 2014, volunteers delivered their first load of food in the community — distributing more than 22,000 pounds of fresh produce and high-quality food to community partners like City Rescue Mission, Trinity Rescue Mission, Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM), Salvation Army and The Sulzbacher Center for use in their feeding and food distribution programs. Visit www.feedingnefl.org/ for more information or to volunteer.
Photo courtesy Brian Fullford
All ages helped with the gleaning at the fifth annual citrus drive, hosted by Feeding Northeast Florida and Society of St. Andrew, on Feb. 11, 2017.