Around the holidays, several people generously donate food and fruit to local food banks.
However, this year some food banks in Arizona will not be accepting any citrus from the public after a bug that can help carry a citrus tree-killing disease has been found in several counties.
Officials said the citrus in Arizona is safe to eat; they're just trying to discourage people from donating their citrus to the local food banks until it can be properly screened and to help contain the bug's presence.
The culprit is the Asian Citrus Psyllid which helps spread citrus greening disease, which can kill citrus trees, including grapefruit, orange and lemon, according to the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
Officials said while the bug is in Arizona, the disease has not made its way here. Several counties in Arizona have been partially quarantined, including Mohave, La Paz, Maricopa, Pima, Santa Cruz, Yavapai and Yuma.
— Nick VinZant (@NickVinZant) December 8, 2015
Last year, St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance and United Food Bank received over 3.5 million pounds of donated citrus or 5 percent of their total food donation, officials said at a Tuesday morning press conference.
This year they will not accept any citrus donations from the public. They will still receive citrus from approved commercial growers and their gleaning programs, said officials.
"Since 2009 we've battled this pest, preventing it from covering the whole state. So far we've been successful keeping the citrus greening bacteria from our state," said Mark Killian, director of the Department of Agriculture.
Asian Citrus Psyllid has been found in backyards, along public roads and in commercial groves. They're no bigger than the head of a pin, according to the Arizona Department of Agriculture website. If infected, the tree will turn green, the fruit will form in odd shapes and will taste bitter.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
- Buy citrus locally or from reputable nurseries
- Share citrus locally. Do not bring in uncertified fruit from out of Arizona or quarantined areas.
- Fertilize trees and watch for signs of infection.
- If you have questions, CALL a local nursery or Arizona Master Gardener.
- Do not bring the fruit or tree to the nursery.