Southern Arizona | Investigating 4 You

N4T Investigators: Working to put an end to wasted produce

TUCSON – We have a News 4 Tucson Investigators follow-up on a story we first brought you more than a year and a half ago.

It’s about tons of fresh produce that was being dumped into the Rio Rico landfill in February 2017.

With so many hungry people in southern Arizona, the News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to know why so many boxes of seemingly nutritious produce were being plowed under.

“Sometimes the market can’t accept it; the food bank is full because of oversupply, and the only economic thing to do is to dump it and we hate to see it happen. But, as a percentage of what comes through Nogales, it’s a very small percentage,” Lance Jungmeyer, with the Fresh Produce Association, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators at the time.

The good news – that wasted produce may soon be a thing of the past.

The University of Arizona Compost Cats have launched a new compost center in Rio Rico, where workers will sort produce to try and reduce the amount that ends up in the landfill.

“They’re actually working as well to help salvage anything that can be edible and provide that to us, and then anything else can be composted, instead of going to the landfill,” said Meghan Heddings, with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

The Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales is the largest in the country for produce imports from Mexico, and keeping tons of that produce out of southern Arizona landfills is a big part of what the project is all about.

“We know that there’s such a great need in the community, so we don’t want to see anything that could potentially help someone be just sent to a landfill where it’s just going to be destroyed,” Heddings told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

In another development, Imperfect Produce, a produce delivery company recently announced plans to open its first customer care center in Tucson.

The company is expected to begin operations in southern Arizona early next year, and plans to hire 350 people over the next five years.

The San Francisco-based company sources so-called “ugly” produce that would otherwise go to waste directly from farms and delivers it to their costumer’s door.

“A lot of it has come in through one of those ports of entry, and then has been excluded based on cosmetic criteria or size, so what you’re talking about is near and dear to our hearts and something we’re looking to help with,” said Reilly Brock, with Imperfect Produce.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Edward R. Murrow Award winning broadcast journalist and Investigative Producer with the News 4 Tucson Investigators. Paul is a Tucson native, UA graduate, and licensed private investigator.
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