Local Markets and Organizations Fight to End Food Deserts

April 20, 2015
By Theresa Delaney
By Theresa Delaney

(Photo Credit: Market On The Move)

Tucson is known for its beautiful and unique landscape, a perk to being centrally located in the Sonoran Desert. However, Southern Arizona also carries a less appealing desert connotation with more than 700,000 Arizona residents living in what’s known as a “food desert”.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food deserts are broadly defined as areas “where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable food”.

A number of local groups are working to fight food deserts and make fresh food and produce available in low-access and low-income areas.

Heirloom Farmers Markets

On April 1, 2015, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announced a $31.5 million grant through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Program (FINI).

Heirloom Farmers Markets, as a subgrantee to national non-profit Wholesome Wave, will receive $86,608 from this award. Heirloom will use the funds to improve community access to nutritious, local food through Tucson’s first incentive program in cooperation with Wholesome Wave and FINI. The new program will benefit families who are recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“With this award, we will launch our Double Your Dollar program, through which SNAP recipients can double the value of their benefits when purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at our farmers markets,” says Roxanne Garcia, co-executive director of Heirloom Farmers Markets.

All four Heirloom farmers market locations, beginning with the Saturday and Sunday farmers markets at Rillito Park, will implement the Double Your Dollar program this year.

For more information visit www.heirloomfm.com.

Market On the Move

Market on the Move is a state-wide program hosted by The 3000 Club. Since launching in 2010, the program has distributed over $45,000,000 worth of produce and helped more than 460,000 families.

Every Saturday morning, anyone can stop by 250 S. Toole Avenue from 8am until 11am and donate $10 (cash only) for up to 60 pounds of fresh produce. While options vary week to week, visitors will typically find tomatoes, squash, apples, cucumbers, peppers, and melons.

To stay up to date with Market On The Move’s schedule and find out what will be at this week’s market, visit the Facebook page.

Farm Education Resource Network (FERN)

FERN is “a growing network of farmers and educators in the desert Southwest who have come together to support the advancement of sustainable agriculture, local food systems, and healthy food choices.” Their chosen medium is “inclusive education” for anyone interested in producing food and contributing to the local farming community, as well as exposing students to a variety of dynamic agricultural experiences.

To find out more or get information on apprenticeships and farm hosting, visit fernschool.org

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