The response was overwhelming. More than 26,000 pounds of fruit were donated to and distributed by the Valley Interfaith Council, which runs 19 food pantries in the Valley and feeds 80,000 people a month. This year, the amount of donated fruit could double, and more volunteers are needed to help the students at Los Angeles Baptist High School in North Hills and Alemany High in Mission Hills, who will be going to the homes of the elderly and people who cannot climb ladders to pick the fruit off their trees Sunday. “This program is entirely volunteer-driven, with no government investment,” Smith added. “It’s probably the purest, simplest way you can help in your community that anyone has ever come up with.” Like Goronea says, a real no-brainer. “The reason Citrus Sunday is so important to us is because our food drives usually bring in canned and boxed goods,” said Eileen Parker, a representative of Valley Interfaith Council. “We know that for nutritional purposes, we need to provide more fruits and vegetables, but we don’t always have the money to acquire them or the means to store and refrigerate them. “It’s the missing link in what we do,” Parker added. “We just know there are people out there with backyard fruit trees who would help us if they knew about all the people who need that fruit to get healthy.” Remember what your mother always said: It’s a sin to let food go to waste. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. [email protected] (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! When you ask Ruth Goronea why she and some of her neighbors in Northridge with fruit trees in their backyards are taking part in Citrus Sunday this weekend, she gives you the perfect answer. “Why not?” the teacher’s aide at Dearborn Street Elementary School says. “It’s a no-brainer.” She’s right, of course, Eddie Applegate and Betty Jenkins agree. Citrus Sunday makes so much sense, it is a no-brainer. The Chatsworth couple will be among hundreds of homeowners in the Valley giving the excess fruit on their fruit trees to the Valley Interfaith Council’s food pantry programs, instead of letting it go to waste rotting on the tree or the ground. “We sure can’t eat the hundreds of grapefruits growing on our tree, and our neighbors can only take so many, so why not give the rest away to people who could use it,” said Applegate, who played the role of Richard Harrison, Patty Duke’s boyfriend, on “The Patty Duke Show,” which ran on TV from 1963 to 1966. In a recent UCLA study, it was estimated that there are about 130,000 people living in the San Fernando Valley deemed “food insecure.” They will not have enough food for themselves and their families to get through the month without giving up other necessities like transportation, heat, health care or clothing. At the bottom of their spending priority list is the most important food group for health – fruits and vegetables. “We’ve all driven down streets in the Valley and seen fruit rotting on lawns and sidewalks,” says Los Angeles City Councilman Grieg Smith, who instituted Citrus Sunday last year.