Sixty pounds of produce for 10 bucks. That's Market on the Move.
Each weekend, November through May - and biweekly the rest of the year - volunteers arrive in the pre-dawn hours to unload semis packed with fresh fruits and vegetables that otherwise would have been trucked to landfills.
For a $10 donation, supporters of non-profit The 3000 Club can shop in a farmers-market-type setting and get up to 60 pounds of fresh produce. For a $20 donation they can get 120 pounds of food, and so on.
"The goal of this program is to attract or invite the people who can afford $10 and have time to come and pick up the produce, then give it to people that they think need it. It's not just like you're coming to get 60 pounds to fill up your refrigerator," said Ester Havey, who serves on the board of directors for Market on the Move and supervises 10 distribution sites a month in the Tucson area.
Market on the Move was started in 2010 as part of the Phoenix-based 3000 Club.
"Seventy percent of our produce comes in from Mexico across the border from Nogales. About 1,600 semi truckloads come across the border a day," said Ethel Luzario of Phoenix, co-founder of The 3000 Club. "All this produce goes to the different produce brokers and the produce brokers are the ones who distribute the produce to the different supermarkets. If it's not the right shape or if it's not perfect or demand stops and a produce broker needs more space in the warehouse it winds up in the landfill.
"We're not gleaning from the supermarkets. We're gleaning from the brokers."
At the Tucson markets, which move among a dozen or more locations each month, volunteers cull produce that is not fit for consumption - typically about 20 percent is set aside for compost. The rest is put out for supporters.
Once fruits and vegetables are sorted, supporters register, pay their money and get boxes to fill with the produce of their choice. Often people begin arriving while volunteers are still unloading trucks, said Havey, who has seen a more than 300 percent increase in the number of people at Tucson markets since they began in 2010.
Last weekend three semi trucks of fruits and vegetables were distributed at Tucson Market on the Move venues.
Each semi holds 36,000 pounds of food - enough to feed 600 families, Luzario said.
Although Tucson organizers haven't finalized a schedule yet, Havey said local Market on the Move events will continue through the summer.
If you go
Market on the Move distributes fresh produce to communities in a farmers market-style atmosphere at schools, churches and other locations throughout the Tucson and Phoenix areas.
For a $10 donation, supporters can receive up to 60 pounds of produce that otherwise would end up in a landfill because it is overstocked or has slight imperfections. For a $100 yearly membership, supporters can join The 3000 Club, a nonprofit, and get produce for a $5 donation.
Markets are weekly November through May and biweekly or monthly during the summer and early autumn months.
Upcoming Tucson-area markets run from 8 a.m. to noon:
Pan Asian Center, 940 S. Craycroft Road
Pima Community College, 5901 S. Calle Santa Cruz
Saguaro Canyon Church, 10111 E. Old Spanish Trail
St. Ambrose Parish, 300 S. Tucson Blvd.
St. Joseph Church, 215 S. Craycroft Road
• May 12
Green Valley Pecan Co., 1625 E. Sahuarita Road, Sahuarita
St. Cyril Parish, 4725 E. Pima St.
Sunnyside High School, 1725 E. Bilby Road
• May 19
Most Holy Trinity Church, 1300 N. Greasewood Road
St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1800 N. Camino Pio Decimo
The Giving Tree, 4431 E. 22nd Street
• May 26
Friends In Deed, 301 W. Camino Casa Verde, Green Valley
Mount Zion Lutheran Church, 4520 W. Ajo Way
Vision Church, 7555 W. Twin Peaks Road
By the numbers
The 3000 Club says that every year its members, volunteers and supporters:
• Rescue about 30 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Distribute more than $45 million worth of produce.
• Provide more than 23 million meals.
• Help more than 460,000 families in need.
• Distribute fresh produce to more than 300 food banks and agencies across Arizona and throughout the United States.
• Average between eight and 12 locations, distributing more than 200,000 pounds of produce, every week.
Market on the Move organizers answer frequently asked questions on their website:
Q. How much of the money goes to the program?
A. 100 percent of the membership fees are used to rescue, transport and distribute produce.
Q. How are the employees compensated?
A. Employees who work directly in the food rescue program are paid out of the program's budget.
Q. Where do they get the produce?
A. The produce comes from Mexico and is transported to the different produce broker warehouses in Nogales, Ariz. These facilities distribute the produce to supermarkets and food warehouses throughout the United States and Canada. The overstock goes to Market on the Move.
Q. How safe is the produce?
A. All the produce is USDA-inspected.
Q. How is the produce distributed?
A. The 3000 Club has three semi trucks that deliver food to the various Market on the Move sites. The rest of the produce is picked up by charities.
Q. What is the time frame for picking up the produce?
A. Produce is generally distributed within 24 to 48 hours from the time it is received.
Q. How much more produce can be rescued?
A. With added resources, an additional 10 million pounds of produce can be rescued every year.
Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at email@example.com or at 573-4191.