Sunday, August 18, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Food Rescue

Food rescue, Tucson, Arizona. August 2019.

Soon after I landed in Tucson, I learned about the food rescue program, where one could pay $10 or $12 and receive up to 60 or 70 pounds in produce. This hit all of my buttons: Frugality! fruits and vegetables! doing a good deed!

One of my housemates in my temporary Tucson base was a devotee of Tucson food banks, and perhaps also the food rescue. He made several forays each week to his hunting grounds, bringing back massive quantities of food. Once he brought home grilled salmon!

The food banks, appropriately, have income ceilings, but the public food rescue programs are for anyone who plops down their 10 or 12 bucks.

One of my students from another country expressed some surprise at this, saying: "Shouldn't this be restricted to the poor"?

Well, no. Reasons why it's good to offer food rescue to the general public: 
  1. Stigmas about food banks keep some eligible folks from using a food bank; by paying for the produce, there is no stigma
  2. Furthermore, when you see consumers who appear to be of every socio-economic group at a food rescue station, it further validates that food rescue is for everyone to participate in, not just low-income folks
  3. Besides: Why should low-income folks only get stuff that might otherwise be considered undesirable?
  4. Because it is not uncommon for some of the produce to be, shall we say, "elderly," many members of the general public will self-select out of the food rescue stations, as they prefer to pay by the pound for fresh produce at their favorite grocery stores
  5. Someone who pays something for food is more likely to find a way to consume it (or share it) rather than letting it go to waste because there was no cost
  6. Less food goes to waste

Food rescue, Tucson, Arizona. August 2019.

The operation in Tucson I've become familiar with is Borderlands' Produce on Wheels. It operates in several Arizona cities, and in Tucson, at least in August, it has two stations that volunteers set up each week, which sometimes move from one location to another during the month.

The first week, I received:
  • Tomatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Anaheim peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Small watermelons

The second week:
  • Tomatoes
  • Red grapes
  • Butternut squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Red peppers

The third week:
  • Eggplant
  • Green grapes
  • Tomatillos
  • Pumpkins
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Acorn squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Mangoes 
  • Serrano peppers

Food rescue, Tucson, Arizona. August 2019.

 Here's a 2016 Borderlands video about its program:

Another advantage of food rescue is the introduction of unfamiliar vegetables and fruits to consumers. My daily diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, yet I'm naive about some items.

I experimented with the Anaheim peppers I received my first week. I roasted them in a skillet, then inserted them into a two-egg omelette. Holy moly, that was good. Like a chile relleno experience, only healthier. If any appear in a future rescue event, I will mentally clap my hands together like a little girl.

The serrano peppers I got in yesterday's harvest - tasty, but too much heat for me to enjoy in my everyday world.

I had never roasted a pumpkin until yesterday. Beautiful, luxurious orange flesh; roasted up just fine in the oven. Glad for the experience, but it was more liquidy than I like, thus squashes such as butternut, acorn, and spaghetti still have my heart.

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