The first fresh produce distribution for the Produce on Wheels Without Waste (POWWOW) program was held on April 11, 2020 at the Oracle Community Center. The response to the program showed an overwhelming need for the community as traffic on American Ave. was backed up from the Oracle Community Center to the Catholic Church. The traffic jam forced the program to start earlier than scheduled. Volunteers served 118 vehicles before running out of produce. Many vehicles had to be turned away.
Early in the morning, volunteers drove nine trucks to Marana and picked up 7,000 pounds of produce from warehouses in Nogales. This good produce would have ended up in a landfill if not for this produce rescue program. The produce was brought to the Oracle Community Center where it was sorted and boxed to distribute. The produce included tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, eggplant, sweet peppers and carrots.
The POWWOW program was hosted by members of the Oracle Community Learning Garden. Originally the plan was to offer 70 pounds of produce for $12 but thanks to SaddleBrooke Rotary Club, the produce was free. Liese Razzeto, from the SaddleBrooke Rotary, said that they became involved as part of the Rotary International’s response to the pandemic asking local clubs to check on the needs of the communities they serve. They reached out to different organizations and saw that Linda Leigh had many volunteers and had set up the food distribution and all they needed was funding. They had money from a fundraiser last fall so the club chose this program.
Linda Leigh says that she would like to see the program offered twice a month until June and then picked up again in the fall. It looks like there is a bigger need than anticipated and more produce will be ordered next time. Linda says eventually they would like to have the produce offered in Mammoth and San Manuel. They are also looking for someone with a large moving truck or rig that can carry a large load of produce to the Tri-Community. They are also looking for ideas to improve the distribution system and avoid some of the problems they encountered during the first distribution.
“Oracle is the most amazing volunteer community in the world,” said Linda Leigh. She would like to thank SaddleBrooke Rotary, Oracle Community Center, Borderlands Produce Rescue and everyone involved in bringing this program to Oracle.