Arizona Produce Companies Bolster Area Food Drives; Scott Vandervoet and Allison Moore Comment
NOGALES, AZ - Arizona’s port of entry in Nogales and the produce companies in the southern region of the state are an essential component in the success and stability of the U.S. supply chain. This month, those companies have been answering the call for area assistance by bringing healthy food, especially fresh produce, to the most vulnerable communities in the area. Responding in quick succession, area leaders came together and a food drive was born.
“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 Fresh Produce Association of the Americas' 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.”
With unprecedented challenges for his community due to the impact of COVID-19 top of mind, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce Bracker knew he had to do something when those calls from surrounding counties and the local food relief agencies for help started coming in. According to a press release, this series of events triggered a valuable move as Bracker then teamed up with Supervisor Sharon Bronson from Pima County to address the issues at hand.
FPAA members had been working diligently since the beginning of the pandemic, 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.
“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 FPAA’s call to action brought a member response that makes one message very clear: Getting food to the people in their communities who need help in unprecedented times is a priority.
On top of produce being 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. Over 820 families had benefitted from the food drive by 12 PM. On Friday, over 860 families received fresh produce as well.
“We are grateful for the partnership with the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and its members,” Supervisor Bruce Bracker added in a statement. “None of this would be possible without the dozens of volunteers and the administration support from the Nogales and Rio Rico School Districts."
Vandervoet shared that FPAA will continue to help its community as long as it can and as long as there’s a need.
“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,” he reflected.
The release also stated that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the real heroes are the people showing up on the frontlines of the food supply chain, just as FPAA members are doing in amazing numbers.
For those 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 www.santacruzcountyaz.gov.