Oranges from UF farm given to food banks
Citra farm harvest will feed families and jail inmates
Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
Christmas came early for those who depend on local food banks for basic necessities - and for those who operate such facilities.
Interfaith Emergency Services and Brother's Keeper were the recipients Tuesday of 3,000 pounds of fresh oranges, courtesy of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
The donation came from part of the early harvest at the University of Florida's Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. The unit works in partnership with the MCSO Inmate Farm system, which grows food that feeds inmates at the county jail. The farm system includes several locations.
Sgt. David Hurst, who is in charge of the inmate farm system, said that through January 2014, the UF farm is projecting a harvest of roughly 225,000 pounds of citrus. He said the excess will be passed on to food banks, which in turn will disperse the fruit within local communities.
The truck that delivered the fruit to Interfaith contained a total of 15,500 pounds of oranges. Hurst said some of those would be juiced and others would be served with meals to inmates.
For Thomas Curtis, the warehouse manager at Interfaith, the plump juicy oranges were a welcome - and needed - gift.
“We exist on donations, and without those donations, we wouldn't be in business,” Curtis said.
He said they will share some of the fruit with other agencies that provide services to the community, such as the Salvation Army.
“We will be spreading it out to about three or four agencies,” he said.
Throughout the year, Curtis added, Interfaith provides food, hygiene items and more to an average of 60 families each day. During the holidays, he said, that number rises dramatically.