TUCSON, AZ—A new project will engage Nogales youth in ethnographic documentation of local foodways to develop innovative business ideas around the community’s waste management systems. The project, called “Waste Not: Borderlands Innovations in Food Waste Management,” will be managed by three partners: the Southwest Folklife Alliance (SFA), Startup Unidos, and the University of Arizona Office of Sustainability/Compost Cats. The organizations were awarded $63,000 for two years from the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona.
Every year, 60 percent of all fresh produce in the United States (November-May) arrives through the port of entry in Nogales, AZ. Over 6000 tons of that produce, much of it still fresh, ends up in the Rio Rico landfill. That surplus could be turned into value-added food products or fertile compost for use in household or commercial ventures.
The project aims to create educational and experiential opportunities for young people to create real solutions to issues of food surplus in the region by 1) engaging young people youth in ethnographic research, documenting narratives of cultural traditions around food waste, 2) creating business innovation opportunities, and 3) building greater community awareness of and engagement with the borderlands produce industry. It builds on strong partnerships and ethical practices of community engagement, foregrounding the importance of traditional knowledge to inform inventive solutions to pressing community needs.
The project grows out of prior work in Nogales by all three organizations. In 2018, SFA launched VozFrontera, a center for youth engagement, leadership, and local arts incubation in Nogales. Startup Unidos launched a pilot program through VozFrontera, offering a certified training in economic development and entrepreneurship to five Nogales youth. SFA’s long-standing relationship with UA Office of Sustainability comes via its largest annual event, Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival (TMY), for which the Compost Cats have worked to divert festival food waste and recyclables from the landfill to the Cats’ compost center at the San Xavier Cooperative Farm, where it is transformed into valuable soil amendments (compost) that can be reinvested in local food growing soils and landscapes. Nogales’ Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) will assist in educational enrichment and, workforce development.
PARTICIPATION is open to 10 Santa Cruz County high school students. Online registration opens Tuesday, February 26, 2019 and closes Friday, March 15, 2019 at midnight. goo.gl/P1XxMM