OCEANSIDE — On April 21, citrus fruit will be collected from residents backyard trees and delivered to local food banks as part of the city’s first GleanUp Day. Expectations are 17,000 pounds of fruit will be collected, providing 51,000 nutritious servings to food-insecure families and individuals.
“The fruit normally goes to waste,” Nita Kurmins, founder of ProduceGood, said. “We have pretty big hopes.”
Residents can drop off homegrown produce that day at Lincoln Middle School from 8 a.m. to noon. Other options are for homeowners in the immediate Fire Mountain neighborhood to request curbside pickup of fruit, or ask for volunteer assistance to harvest their trees if they are unable to do so.
All citrus fruit will be collected in on-site 800-pound mobile storage bins, which will be picked up by Feeding San Diego and San Diego Food Bank for distribution.
Kurmins said collected fruit usually has a shelf life of a week, but most of it is distributed the next day.
This is the first partnership between ProduceGood, Oceanside Unified School District, Feeding San Diego, San Diego Food Bank, Waste Management of North County and Oceanside for a GleanUp Day. The city is piloting the idea and hopes to continue it as an annual event to serve more neighborhoods.
Efforts have great environmental benefits. When food waste goes into the landfill it decomposes and produces potent methane gas. The first step to reach zero waste is to reduce waste, then reuse, compost and recycle.
“GleanUp Day is a great way for Oceanside residents to reduce the amount of edible food ending up in our landfill and redistributing that food locally,” Colleen Foster, city senior management analyst, said.
ProduceGood works out of Leichtag Ranch in Encinitas to reduce food waste year-round. The nonprofit was established four years ago. Kurmins said at that time few people talked about food waste, or had much interest in addressing the problem.
Kurmins said she was motivated to do something when she heard that 40 percent of food goes into the landfill, and one in six people in San Diego County are food insecure.
“It’s so solvable,” Kurmins said. “Now everybody is interested.”
Today, ProduceGood is a full-time nonprofit operation that serves San Diego County.
ProduceGood regularly holds GleanUp days, or CropSwaps, with neighborhood groups that have 10 or more full fruit trees.
GleanUp days have also become a way for corporate groups to volunteer and bond. Kurmins said it is a great way to have fun while taking socially responsible action.
Kurmins added she would like to see everyone take part.
She said to help people overcome their hesitation she lets homeowners know the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects those who donate produce from civil and criminal liability. Homeowners also receive a receipt for their tax deductible food donation.
All Oceanside residents are invited to drop off citrus fruit at Lincoln Middle School on April 21. Fire Mountain residents interested in pickup and harvesting services must register at www.greenoceanside.org. The website also lists Earth Month events.