The California Citrus Quarantine and How It Affects Donations to the Food Bank

Oranges. Lemons. Grapefruits. This is just a quick list of the variety of citrus fruits we commonly see come through our warehouse doors each month from farmers, manufacturers and residential donors which we then inspect, sort and distribute to local individuals and families in need through San Diego County.

A recent quarantine was placed on these fruits at the beginning of the year by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in order to control the spread and eventually rid our community of a destructive pest. As a result, this quarantine has restricted specific regions where we are able to accept citrus fruits from and in some cases has limited the amount of citrus fruits being distributed through our nonprofit partner network and at our monthly distribution sites.

What pest is responsible for infesting California citrus fruits?

According to the CDFA, citrus fruits grown in specific areas of California are being infected and killed by a bacterium called Huanglongbing and spread by Asian citrus psyllids. This type of pest is known to travel and feed on the leaves and stems of citrus fruit inevitably becoming a vector for the bacterium causing it to spread from tree to tree. Although the pests are not harmful to humans either through touch or ingestion, the disease the bacterium causes can ultimately lead to the decay of the infected plant or tree preventing it from producing new fruit.

Where is this infected produce being grown?

The quarantine affects citrus fruits produced throughout the state of California as far north as Sutter County and as far south as Imperial Counties and into Mexico.

CLICK HERE FOR A MAP OF AT-RISK AREAS

Because the infestation has grown over the last couple of months, farmers, growers, manufacturers and residential homes with 25 or more citrus trees are being required by the CDFA to fill out specific compliance agreements in order to be cleared for growing, processing and transporting of citrus fruits.

Vanessa Moore, Vice President of Operations at the San Diego Food Bank, says staff is doing everything in its power to help deter the spread.

“Our team has been consistently communicating with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to ensure we are following guidelines as closely as possible as an  approved transporter to help prevent the spread of this pest while also not skipping a beat when it comes to ensuring needs of the community are being met,” said Moore.

What happens to the citrus fruits that cannot be accepted?

As a precaution, the San Diego Food Bank and our North County Food Bank chapter is unable to accept donations of citrus fruits that are either homegrown or brought to our facility by an unverified grower until proper paperwork has been filed with the CDFA or until the quarantine has been lifted.

“We are not in the business of turning away food donations; however, we are committed to doing our part to comply with state regulations,” said Food Procurement Coordinator, Ben Price.

“We just have to exercise caution when it comes to what we accept, because we do not want to perpetuate the problem even further.”

When will the quarantine be lifted?

Due to the complexity of the infestation, it has not been determined how long this quarantine will last.

For more information and updates about the quarantine, please visit www.citrusinsider.org.

For more information about food donations, please reach out to the Food Bank’s Food Procurement Coordinator, Kimberly Castillo.