CSUN community picks oranges to donate to food pantries in the San Fernando Valley

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Manaa Panda, employee at Deloitte, comes out to pick oranges in the CSUN orange grove Sunday morning. The oranges will be donated to SOVA, a local Jewish food bank. Photo Credit: Paul Kingsley / Photo Editor

CSUN students and volunteers were in the trees for a good cause.

On Sunday, CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability and Food Forward hosted an orange grove–picking event that benefited food pantries in the San Fernando Valley.

Marie Boswell, 23, leadership and general projects manager with Food Forward, said 2,350 pounds of produce were picked at the event.

“We have about six large picks a year,” Boswell said. “But we have one or two small picking projects a week.”

Food Forward is a non-profit organization that collects picked produce and donates it to food pantries all over Los Angeles County.

The organization is a little over a year and a half old, but has more than 120,000 registered volunteers who have picked more than 260,000 pounds of produce since the organization was established.

Carl Buratti, CSUN alumnus and Food Forward volunteer coordinator, said there were about 70 volunteers including families, CSUN students and other members of the community.

“We have collected over one million servings of fruits,” Buratti said.  “In today’s pick, I’m hoping for at least five thousand pounds of food. The trees in the grove are really difficult to pick, but we have tons of volunteers and two hours of work. I think we can do it.”

This was the fourth orange grove pick at CSUN.

Food Forward was started in 2009, when founder Rick Nahmias noticed an abundance of fruit from a neighbor’s tree, Buratti said. Food Forward volunteers and coordinators said they credited the success and growth of their organization to their use of social media.

“We get the word out through our Facebook and Twitter accounts,” Buratti said. “And from there it just grew.”

Madelene Carpinteynol, 19, came to the event with a few of her sorority sisters.

“It is part of community service and philanthropic work,” said the political science and psychology major. “Lamda Theta Nu signed up for this event and we are planning to do the AIDS Walk later this month. Orange picking is fun, but it’s really hot—we just have to remember that our work is for a good cause and we love to help the community.”

Other CSUN students shared the heat and the giving nature.

“Even though it is one of our assignments this semester to do some volunteer work, it’s still fun,” said Lana Shtivelman, 20, biology major. “I just didn’t think that it would be this much work for some oranges.”

Other members of the community came out to the event as well as CSUN students.

“I decided to come out and donate a few hours on my birthday to pick some oranges,” said Howie Meivach, 55, a teacher with Los Angeles Unified. “I ran into Erica, one of the coordinators, and she told me about this orange-picking event. I thought it was a great idea and I really wanted the chance to help other people in the world. Plus, I can always celebrate my birthday later in the afternoon.”

After a day in the sun, in a grove full of oranges with a picker, tools and boxes, the Food Forward volunteers called it a day and the picked oranges were donated to the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program, a Jewish family service.

“The food picked today will be distributed among their food pantries within the next three days,” Buratti said.


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