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Auckland fruit boosts food banks

For the first time since it began four years ago, Auckland-based charity Community Fruit Harvesting has sent 30 boxes of citrus fruit to Christchurch to be distributed by local food banks.

Boxes of grapefruit, oranges, tangelos, lemons and limes were shared among the Salvation Army, City Mission and 0800 HUNGRY.

Founder Di Celliers started Community Fruit Harvesting after she noticed fruit was going to waste in suburban backyards and orchards around the country. The charity organises volunteers to pick fruit and share fruit in different regions.

Celliers had been told about an Auckland Lions club who used to send fruit to the South Island by train and was keen to start a similar initiative, as the colder climate in Christchurch meant citrus did not grow in the region.

Having picked at 100 venues around Auckland in August alone, the charity had an abundance of citrus, particularly grapefruit.

The citrus season runs from June to September in Auckland and Celliers said a single grapefruit tree could be incredibly prolific, providing up to eight boxes of fruit.

“A lot of the food banks in Auckland get saturated, I just think it would be great the more we can get down there.”

Celliers had organised for the fruit to travel down on an empty tour bus but after that fell through she had to find alternative transport.

Some of the groups Facebook followers suggested she contact Air New Zealand to see if they could help and they agreed to transport 30 boxes of the fruit.

She has since spoken with other businesses, including Countdown, about the possibility of organising transport so that the donations could become a regular thing.

Salvation Army Christchurch community ministries distribution centre co-ordinator Nick Allwright took on the responsibility of collecting the fruit from the airport and distributed it to the various centres this week.

Christchurch city missioner Michael Gorman said the mission received eight boxes of fruit which was distributed to those in need along with food parcels.

“We are really grateful to the people in Auckland, it is a great boost to us down here in Christchurch and great that they would think of us.”

The chief executive and founder of 0800 HUNGRY, Kerry Bensemann, said donations of citrus were uncommon and the fruit would be included in food parcels and delivered to those in need during the week.

_Samantha Gee for The Press