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SOUTHEAST AREA : Donation Bears Fruit for Seniors

August 07, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

In an effort to bring attention to the poor nutritional habits and medical needs among the elderly, a massive donation of fresh fruit was made last week to more than 5,000 senior citizens. Bags of fresh peaches and nectarines were distributed to community centers throughout the day.

Twenty tons of fruit were donated by San Joaquin Valley peach and nectarine growers in conjunction with the nonprofit Fresno Food Bank. The food bank arranged to have the fruit sorted, bagged and delivered to Southern California. Qwik Way Trucking of Vernon donated transportation for the local distribution.

"It's not every day we get such a treat," said Juanita Mansilia, 79, one of about 100 fruit recipients at the Bonelli Senior Center in Huntington Park. "Far more of this fruit is needed if we're to remain healthy and active."

Sal Gonzales, director of the Fresno Food Bank, said this is the start of a mutually beneficial relationship between Southern California senior citizen groups, the food bank and valley growers.

Senior citizen groups from Artesia, Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood and South Gate participated at community centers, where thousands of the elderly participate in state-funded supplemental meal programs.

"There are about 1.5 million seniors living in Los Angeles County, and an estimated 130,000 are living below the poverty line," said Sandy Stanko, project director for the Oldtimers Foundation, which regularly distributes food at the Huntington Park center. The foundation, established in 1964, serves nearly 750,000 meals annually to the elderly in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties at nutrition sites as well as to those who are homebound. Gonzales said that fruit distribution programs provide growers an outlet for edible fruit that may not be marketable "due to low prices or because the fruit is blemished, misshapen or too ripe to transport long distances to market."

Programs are in place throughout the state, he said, to distribute fresh fruit to schools, nonprofit groups and charitable organizations.

The Fresno Food Bank aims to establish ties with other urban organizations that can distribute their perishable product, he said.

"While we don't have a problem accessing fruit, we do have problems arise due to limited resources such as manpower and transportation," he said.

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