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Fruit of their labors yields juice for needy

Glean St. Pete, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic Food Bank's effort to gather citrus to be squeezed and dispensed as juice to the needy, has blossomed.

Youth groups and church and community organizations gathered 51{ tons of fruit this year, surpassing the food bank's 50-ton goal, said Jim Barrens, food bank director. The fruit is being squeezed, stored and dispensed to the needy through 170 agencies that go to the food bank for help each week.

When the program began in 1992, 7{ tons of fruit were harvested in the multiorganizational effort. In 1993, 45 tons were gathered, Barrens said. Although most of the fruit and distribution is in south Pinellas County, the program is countywide.

"The neat part this year was that we branched out," Barrens said. "We had 15 youth groups, including Pinellas Marine Institute (at St. Petersburg Beach) and the Girls' Alternative School of Palmetto, participating. This is youth paying back the community, and I think it's really important to get the word out on this in a time when there's so much hysteria about youth and crime."

Feb. 18-20 was designated "Glean St. Pete" weekend, and trained groups set out with trucks, bags, baskets, ladders and addresses to pick citrus from donors' yards. As it did in 1993, Orange Blossom Groves transported some of the fruit from collection sites, washed it and squeezed the juice for free. Harry Bell & Sons Inc. froze the juice for free. New to the effort this year was William R. Hough & Co., which paid for juice containers.

"We already have 2,000 gallons of juice stored, but that will be gone in about 30 days," Barrens said.