Iskashitaa Refugee Network (IRN) is a local organization that integrates United Nation refugees into the Southern Arizona community to assist with the harvest of local produce that would otherwise go to waste. IRN is currently in their busiest time of the year…CITRUS season! Throughout the year we see this abundance all around us; oranges, grapefruits, lemons, kumquats, cacti fruit; IRN is doing their part to facilitate the harvest of this perfectly usable food.
Often times, due to the abundance of fruit, (especially citrus), there is a large amount of fruit that is left unharvested around Southern Arizona. This is how it all started 19 years ago when Barbara Eiswerth started Iskashitaa. Looking around Tucson, she saw so many citrus trees left unharvested leading to the fruit going to waste. At the same time, Eiswerth was aware of an influx of refugees being settled in the area with very little help or direction given to become part of the community. Hence, Iskashitaa Refugee Network was formed. Barbara has found that giving the refugees this opportunity to help IRN with harvesting fruit, diverting food waste, and reallocating said harvests back into the community is how the refugees give back. IRN helps refugees make connections to members of the community that can help them integrate and find their way. The Tucson CSA has been working with Iskashitaa almost since our founding and members know that they will often find a basket of local citrus from them available by donation this time of year. We have also partnered closely with the organization as one of the locations that we know can take our donations and distribute them to the community for us.
Approximately 60% of the produce harvested goes back into the community through food banks and schools as well as the Navajo Nation. Additionally, about 10% of the produce goes to preservation. IRN has been working with a local chef to help turn these fruits into jams, marmalades and more that are for sale on their website store. This week, during share pick up we will be selling pints of kumquats from IRN at the CSA shop. Other ways to help this wonderful organization are available as well: