Michele Arboisiere Interview with Arizona PBS
Mar 31, 2022
Borderlands Food Bank rescues between 35 and 40 million pounds of safe and edible fruits and vegetables headed for the landfill each year. Produce On Wheels-With Out Waste, a program of Borderlands Food Bank disperses fresh produce to communities in the Metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson areas including parts of Southern Arizona. Anyone can contribute $10 and shop for up to 60 lbs. fresh produce. Borderlands Food Bank board member Michele Arboisiere talks about the program and the organization.
Jose Cardenas: Borderlands Food Bank rescues between 35 and 40 million pounds of safe, edible fruits and vegetables headed to the landfill each year. Produce on wheels without waste delivers to Tucson areas including parts of Southern Arizona. Anyone can contribute $10 and shop for up to 60 pound of fresh produce. Joining us to talk about the organization is Michele Arboisiere, vice president of the Borderlands Food Bank.
Michele Arboisiere: It's French Mexican, however you want to say it.
Jose Cardenas: I need to work on my French. This is a fascinating program. Tell us the history.
Michele Arboisiere: Borderlands Food Bank was founded about 21 years ago by Yolanda Soto, she's the President and CEO. She started out as a regular small food bank with some government funding for WIC, distributing food boxes. She saw the need in the hub of the produce industry. She saw the waste and how our dump was being saturated.
Jose Cardenas: 85% of the winter produce of Nogales.
Michele Arboisiere: Exactly, that is the port of entry. Everything is distributed from Nogales because it is a fresh commodity. What cannot be sold in a timely manner was just being dumped.
Jose Cardenas: Or slightly disfigured in appearance.
Michele Arboisiere: Exactly. It could be one produce house where they were selling it to a grocery store but the grocery store was in Texas. By the time it came through the border they thought it was at a certain level of ripeness and maybe they couldn't sell to it that grocery store chain. They couldn't find another buyer so they had to dump it and lose the money.
Jose Cardenas: We have a picture of the warehouse where you store all this food, where the organization stores. It's quite impressive, how big is it?
Michele Arboisiere: Whoo, I am not familiar on the square footage.
Jose Cardenas: It looks enormous.
Michele Arboisiere: It does but actually it is a moderate sized warehouse compared to all the other produce warehouses in Nogales. It's an older warehouse and the produce, Borderlands Food Bank rents it from an owner. And we actually have two warehouses right now, one right across the arroyo from each other so they can have the overflow because we don't have the refrigeration or capacity to store it all in one.
Jose Cardenas: It goes pretty quick?
Michele Arboisiere: It does. We have the Produce on Wheels Without Waste, which is a program, the farmers market like program that you discussed and it goes all around. We have 33 different sites in the Tucson metro area and 33 different sites in the Phoenix metro area.
Jose Cardenas: You have photos of people participating in the powwow program.
Michele Arboisiere: That's the Produce on Wheel Without Waste. They pay $10 and they can take up to 60 pounds of fresh produce. The varieties change weekly. Most of the programs are on Saturdays. They are at churches, schools, different organizations that have approached the food bank that are familiar with our program that would like to have it there. They can take -- each person can take up to 60 pounds of fresh produce and it's meant for you to distribute it within your community, people you know that are needy, families, friends. Each organization provides their own volunteers that are trained by the food bank. And so it might be a church or a school. And they put it on, we deliver it, they put it on, on the weekends.
Jose Cardenas: You said they paid $10.
Michele Arboisiere: That's a suggested contribution.
Jose Cardenas: You rely on donations.
Michele Arboisiere: There's no revenue generated. We do not have any government funding anymore, it's all based on us regenerating funds through these programs. And any grants and moneys, donations.
Jose Cardenas: And sponsors.
Michele Arboisiere: We rely on sponsors, as well.
Jose Cardenas: If people want to contribute to the program how do they do that?
Michele Arboisiere: We're at Borderlands Food Bank.org, that's our web. You can contribute there on the website. You can also register to get our weekly letter, email. It also has the listing there of the different sites you can go to for the powwow program. We're also on Twitter and Facebook on Borderlands.
Jose Cardenas: Magnificent job, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it.
Michele Arboisiere: Thank you.