Calling All Southern AZ Residents: Do A Food-Related Survey For A Chance to Win $100

No this isn’t a SPAM post, it is actually food-related.  Good food, so nothing even remotely related to SPAM.  🙂

On a more serious note, did you know that one in four kids are hungry in America?

The Pima County Food Alliance is taking part in a national study, conducted by Active Voice, to better understand what it takes to address hunger, obesity and food insecurity, and we’d like your help to get a better picture of what people know about these issues in our community.

The information we collect will help us to better understand and serve our community. We hope that you will participate by completing this short questionnaire:

Please complete by Tuesday, September 17th – Community Member Questionnaire #1 (CLICK HERE)

About the Study: The Take Your Place (TYP) Community Study involves 24 communities across the U.S. where at least one free screening of the film “A Place at the Table” is being held this summer or fall. Participation in the Community Study consists of completing three brief questionnaires over a 12 to 16 week period. Each questionnaire will take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete. Participation is voluntary and your responses are confidential.

Community Study participants who complete the questionnaires will have the opportunity to win the following prizes: 

Questionnaire #1 (by Sept. 17): $100 Target Gift Card

Questionnaire #2 (down the road): $100 Target Gift Card

Questionnaire #3 (further down the road): $200 Target Gift Card

If you have any questions regarding the Take Your Place Community Study, please contact Active Voice Research & Evaluation Manager, Dina de Veer at or 415-487-2000.

Thank you!

Many A Slip Between CAP And Lip

[This is the second in a series of blogs about water policy and issues in southern Arizona written by our Water Policy Intern, Marisa Tackett.]

Have you ever noticed those pools of water, shimmering in the afternoon sun over Avra Valley, west of Tucson? You can see them from the lookout at Gate’s Pass, and they’re an odd site, here in the desert.  If you’re like me, you may have wondered what they are.  Fortunately, I can now explain.  To do that, let me back up a little.

Arizona has, for most of its history, relied primarily on groundwater, a practice that has long been recognized as unsustainable. Tucson has suffered many well closures and water table decreases due to Tucson’s once exclusive dependence on groundwater. This is especially true for central Tucson.

From the inception of The Central Arizona Project (CAP), state politicians have been vying for Colorado River appropriations. In the aftermath of project approval, Arizona was forced to demonstrate that it would actually reduce groundwater use. Thus, the Groundwater Management Act of 1980 emerged, which created the Arizona Department of Water Resources and legislated an innovative and comprehensive water management plan that continues to impact Arizonans today.

Five geographical areas with a historically heavy reliance on groundwater were defined and subject to regulation pursuant to the groundwater code. These areas—known as Active Management Areas (AMA)—were based on projected population growth and key groundwater basins, rather than the political lines of city, towns, and counties. Each AMA has its own set of water management goals and the Tucson AMA aims to achieve a “Safe Yield” by 2025. The Safe Yield objective is to maintain a roughly equal balance between groundwater pumping and groundwater replenishment, thus protecting groundwater from overdraft.

In 1992, upon the completion of the CAP canal, Colorado River water was introduced directly to Tucsonans practically overnight. Hydrologists had not adequately accounted for the differences between the two types of water and did not anticipate the effect it would have on the existing infrastructure.  The water chemically reacted with pipes, resulting in brown water coming into many people’s homes. Upset Tucsonans passed local legislation in 1995, the “Water Consumer Protection Act” banning Tucson Water from directly distributing CAP water to customers, and requiring that CAP water characteristics match groundwater qualities. Tucson Water had to develop an acceptable way to utilize its newly acquired CAP water.

The answer to this conundrum was to let CAP water filter down into the ground where it could mix with the existing water in the aquifer before being pumped back up. To accomplish this, Tucson Water established 20 “recharge” basins at three sites where water is stored above ground and allowed to percolate down.  The project, known as the “Clearwater Program,” cost about $400 million to build, covers 500 acres, and allows 46 billion gallons (140,000 acre feet—Tucson’s full allotment) of CAP water to recharge annually.  Two of the sites are in Avra Valley, which explains the shimmering water visible from Gate’s Pass.  The other is on Pima Mine Road.

Here’s a neat graphic showing what Tucson’s water consumption looks like over time, in graphical form:

Tucson Water Use

Although per capita water use in Tucson has steadily declined, with population increases, the demands on water resources remain significant, potentially doubling by 2050 according to Tucson Water projections. The good news is that in the meantime the CAP recharge basins have allowed the water table to recover some, rising about 1.5 feet per day. The average depth to which the water percolates is 350 feet below ground, although in some places, where the water table is very deep, wells have been dug to 1000 feet. The basins also function as water banks to meet legislative requirements of maintaining an adequate amount of water. Tucson Water then pumps out the blended water from different areas of Tucson for delivery to customers.

Tucson finally has enough infrastructure to capitalize on nearly 100% of its CAP allotment, compared to 2011, when Tucson Water was only using 60% of allotted CAP water. Looking at Tucson’s total water use, recharged CAP water now accounts for approximately 75%, with groundwater, reclaimed water, and miscellaneous sources making up the rest (2012).

Although aquifer levels have increased in certain areas, many argue that reliance on CAP water is only a temporary fix in the current drought environment, especially with the Colorado River, the West’s most critical source of water, facing record low flows. In fact, new measures are being taken by the federal government to curtail water deliveries to some areas. In addition, the Colorado River Compact has set Arizona as one of the first states to be denied water, should the river shortages continue and water become more restricted.

Whilst our water providers assure us that Tucson’s water portfolio is diverse enough to sustain our population in times of severe water shortages, and maintain strategies and conservative measures to reduce water use, water is an undoubtedly finite resource that needs multiple strategies and approaches to sustain itself for our community’s future.

[Next post: Agricultural Water Use]

Are you a food justice advocate? If so, share this flyer!

If you haven’t heard about this free film-screening, you must be lost in your overgrown zucchini patch.

We’ll be screening a very thought-provoking film called “A Place At the Table” later this month and we need your help promoting it!

Please download this flyer and share it with all of your friends.  For more details, see our original post.

Tips for Shopping at a Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ markets are a great way to get fresh, healthy food while supporting your local farmers directly.  We have some great markets in Tucson (various markets run by the food bank and the Heirloom Farmer’s Market, to name a few) and compared to other states, we have plenty of room for future growth.  But a farmers’ market is different from the grocery store and even veteran shoppers could use a tip.  Leadership Council member and director of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture, Meghan Mix, explains how to best take advantage of your local markets in this post.

1. Know Your Seasons. If you know which fruits & vegetables grow in your bioregion each season, planning your purchases will be much easier. Many markets offer lists of what is fresh throughout the year. Talk to the vendors about what will be ripening in the next couple of weeks so you can plan ahead. One of the joys of eating locally is anticipating the availability of delicious seasonal food!

2. Go Early or Go Late. Visit the market early for the best selection. The most popular goods sell out first. It’s as simple as that. Visit the market late for potential deals and discounts. Some vendors prefer to discount their goods instead of taking them home.

3. Bring Your Own Bags. Most vendors do not provide bags, so bring your own tote with handles. Also bring produce bags to help organize your purchases. You can even reuse plastic food containers to transport delicate items (such as berries or tomatoes). And if you don’t expect to head directly home after the market, bring a cooler with ice packs to help keep your veggies fresh.

4. Bring Cash. Cash is the main currency at a farmers market, although some vendors may accept credit cards or checks. Paying with small bills or exact change will make purchasing easier and faster. Some markets can even run your credit card in exchange for tokens that you can use in place of cash. Ask at the info booth. Also be aware that many farmers markets accept WIC vouchers or food stamps. Again, ask at the info booth.

5. Do a Loop. Walk around the market at least once before making any purchases. See what is available, which vendor’s produce looks (and tastes!) the best, or if there are any deals. Make a mental shopping list. After your reconnaissance mission, circle back and make your purchases. And remember: only buy what you will be able to eat in a week or before the next market.

6. Ask Questions & Develop Relationships. Be prepared to spend some time at the market. Ask vendors about unfamiliar foods and how to prepare them. Find out if a vendor specializes in a specific product or what his/her growing methods are. Personal relationships put you closer to the food you are consuming and can sometimes get you tips about upcoming specialty items or occasionally even a freebee or discount.

7. Bargains & Bargaining. Bargains are generally few and far between at a farmers market, and produce is often more expensive than the grocery store. Most vendors are not producing on a large scale or receiving subsidies that help lower prices. At a farmers market, you pay for fresher, more nutritious, and more flavorful foods that support the local economy. What you get doesn’t compare to what is sold at a supermarket. Also don’t expect to bargain; prices are almost always fixed. To lower your cash output, be sure to use all parts of the veggies you buy, ask if any “seconds” are available, and buy in bulk.

8. Don’t Expect Perfection. Much of the produce sold at the farmers market isn’t blemish-free. Supermarket food is grown for its hardiness and beauty, often at the expense of taste. By comparison, farmers’ market food is cultivated for its flavor and freshness. It may be slightly dirty or misshapen, but the tradeoff is worth it.

9. Be Flexible. If what you are looking for is sold out or not in season, try substituting it with something else. Experiment with new items or varieties.

10. Have Fun. Take your time, relax, and browse. Farmers markets aren’t only about the food – you can connect with friends and listen to live music too. It’s a fun way to shop that helps make your local economy stronger. Who’s your farmer?