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3000 Club distributes produce, dairy, food staples for $10 donation per box

3000 Club distributes produce, dairy, food staples for $10 donation per box

Members of the Arizona Army National Guard assist with packing produce for The 3000 Club Tucson drive-thru distribution that will take place from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Saturday.

For a core group of 24 volunteers with The 3000 Club Tucson, giving time and energy is all about sharing, caring and neighbors helping neighbors — while ultimately reducing waste.

Named for 3,000 members in Tucson and Phoenix who kicked off the nonprofit with an investment of $100 each to start a small food bank in Nogales and divert truckloads of unused produce from rotting in landfills, The 3000 Club eventually seeded its flagship program, Market On the Move.

The program distributed more than 5 million pounds of produce from various locations around Tucson last year and shared over 2 million pounds with the Nogales Community Food Bank. It expects that number to skyrocket due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Pam Boyer, executive director of the club.

“We help fill food banks with fresh produce and it is in abundance since so many universities and schools have been closed and there has been less demand from restaurants. Americans love to give and farmers are incredibly generous in this country and in Mexico, where we get more than 70% of our produce. We take a little lesser quality of produce than supermarkets and can move it directly into folks’ hands and to smaller food banks, food pantries and feeding programs,” said Boyer.

For a $10 donation, visitors to Market On the Move, or MOM, typically receive up to 60 pounds of produce and items such as dairy and other staples at pop-up locations citywide several days a week.

To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, MOM has discontinued off-site distribution and is offering weekly prepackaged boxes that contain 60 pounds of produce and dairy. The items are available on a drive-through basis from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Saturday at The 3000 Club Tucson, 4515 E. 22nd St.

Boyer said each box holds the ingredients for about 20 dinners. She credits partnerships with small local and regional community food banks for sharing resources. The organization also partners with the University of Arizona and the Ishkashitaa Refugee Network to educate the public about different methods for preserving and preparing food.

“We try to rescue food that might be a little ripe or undersized: There is nothing better than cutting into a really ripe tomato that has just come off the vine. Farmers and growers just want their food to get to folks so that it can be eaten,” said Boyer.

The organization is not limited to food, but also accepts donations of computers, electronics, household good and medical supplies.

“Our main mission is that nothing useful goes to the landfill,” Boyer said.

Computer and electronics recycling, refurbishing, and distribution shifted into overdrive when school went online during the spring. Children with proven financial need are able to purchase a computer for $20, depending on availability; and the program has partnered with several local charter and public schools to provide computers for low-income students.

Volunteer Chuck Nelson, who is retired from IBM, works 40 hours weekly to help put computers in the hands of students.

“I am very fond of that particular program. These computers come in used and I like to put them back into service at least one more time,” said Nelson.

Nelson is grateful to the many businesses and individuals for the donations that make the program possible.

“We have great donors giving us equipment to work with and we do the best we can with what we have. No one here is a genius with all the answers, but we work together to come up with ideas and as a group we are making a difference,” Nelson said.

Veteran volunteer Moni Ammon, who works about 60 hours weekly, seconded that sentiment.

She emphasized that recycling and reusing are priorities and said computers that can’t be refurbished are dissembled for usable parts and precious metals, while unusable produce is used to feed stock of small local farmers and composted.

Ammon said the organization is grateful for any donations, but doesn’t accept “pets, kids or anything toxic.”

“For everything else, we try to find a home. No one will go hungry or without clothes and other things they need if we have our way. We help homeless people, people who are down on their luck and anyone we can with whatever we have available,” Ammon said.

Volunteer Pam Parry said that she finds working with fellow volunteers and customers alike particularly inspiring.

“Every Saturday we have more than one customer that gets a box of food for their $10 donation and they also give money to pay for the people behind them or for people in need. It is wonderful. It just shows you that there are lots of good people left in the world, so when you go home and watch the news, this kind of balances things out,” Parry said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

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