Nogales, AZ— Produce companies in Southern Arizona have been answering the call for area assistance in bringing healthy food to the most vulnerable people in their communities. Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce Bracker knew the issues brought about by the COVID-19 response would create some unprecedented challenges for his community. When he started receiving calls from surrounding counties and from the local food relief agencies for help, an idea was born. He teamed up with Supervisor Sharon Bronson from Pima County, and they got to work.
“This whole food drive started when I answered my phone and heard Supervisor Bracker from Santa Cruz County telling me about the desperate need for food relief. I knew we had to do something,” said FPAA chairman Scott Vandervoet. “When he said we needed to help out our neighboring counties too because they had also been calling his office looking for help, I knew we really needed to step up.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, FPAA members had been working hard on safeguarding their warehouses, protecting the food supply, and ensuring their workers were safe as they continued the essential business of bringing food to consumers across North America.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, the real heroes are the people showing up on the front lines of the food supply chain. Not only are our members stepping up to maintain the food supply, they are also stepping up to help their local communities too. The FPAA put out a call to all members requesting help getting food to the people in their communities that needed help stretching their food budgets in unprecedented times. The response was amazing.
In addition to produce sent to fill the requests from Cochise County and Pima County, the local community organized two Produce Distribution Points where people could drive through to receive a box of mixed fresh produce. The first distribution point was held on Thursday, April 16. Organizers and volunteers prepared for 400 cars to drive through the Nogales High School parking lot to receive produce boxes. By 12:00 pm, over 820 families had benefitted from the food drive. On Friday, over 860 families received fresh produce.
“We’re a tightknit community,” said Allison Moore, vice president of the FPAA. “We are neighbors, friends, relatives, and coworkers. The response from this community has been so positive, and we know the need is also great. With so many people working together to make this possible, we are hoping to make a difference in our community at such a difficult time.”
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across Arizona and every household in our community. It is during times of crisis that we need to support our neighbors at home and throughout our region.
In a statement Supervisor Bracker said, “We are grateful for the partnership with the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and its members.” He added, “None of this would be possible without the dozens of volunteers and the administration support from the Nogales and Rio Rico School Districts.
“We will continue to help our community as long as we can and as long as there’s a need,” said Scott Vandervoet. “There are lots of people doing their part during this challenge, from healthcare workers to CBP officers at our ports, first responders, and more. Our strength in Santa Cruz County happens to be fresh produce, so that’s what we’re bringing to the table to help our community and our country.”
Additional Information: Please visit www.santacruzcountyaz.gov for more information on the Produce Distribution Points. If you are interested in contributing to this effort or volunteering to help in the distribution of this essential fresh produce assistance, please contact Bruce Bracker, Santa Cruz County Supervisor at [email protected].
About the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas:
Founded in 1944, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) is a nonprofit trade association headquartered in Nogales, Arizona, that represents over 120 U.S. member companies involved in importing and marketing fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Mexico and distributed across North America and the world.