Borderlands can trace its history back to the early 1990’s, when the Mariposa Community Health Center (MCHC) formed a committee to explore the possibility of starting a food bank in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. In 1993 the MCHC worked with the Community Food Bank of Tucson to raise $10,200 in funds to pay for a small warehouse in Nogales, Arizona. An additional grant from FEMA allowed for the distribution of emergency food boxes.
In May of 1994 the Community Food Bank took over the management of the Nogales food bank from MCHC, and decided that the food bank, which they named Borderland Food Bank, should become a non-profit entity. A Board of Directors was formed, and in January 1995 Yolanda Soto was appointed Executive Director. Borderland remained under the management of Community Food Bank until 1996, when at the urging of Ms. Soto, it became an independent entity. In August 1997, Borderland Food Bank received its own 501 c(3) designation.
Over time, Borderland eventually outgrew its original facility. It currently leases two 13,000 sq.ft. warehouses in Nogales. Each facility has two cold rooms to better maintain the integrity of the donated product. Borderlands Food Bank is vital to the health and well-being of Santa Cruz County by providing fresh nutritious produce to people in need, advocating for the hungry, and undertaking the task of helping to eradicate hunger. In Santa Cruz alone, there are more than 5000 households with over 16,000 individuals registered to receive our produce.
The mission of the Borderlands Food Bank is to improve the quality of life for the people of Santa Cruz County, Arizona through the most basic of needs -accessibility to nutritious fresh produce. Overtime the mission of Borderlands has grown to providing fresh produce to not only those living within Santa Cruz County, but also those living in neighboring cities and even states, stretching as far south as Sonora, Mexico, and as far as 23 surrounding States in the U.S.
Borderlands is able to accomplish its mission working in conjunction with social clubs, churches, civic organizations, food banks and national hunger relief organizations to make sure the community has access to fresh produce. Borderlands is determined to help those in the community with food insecurity concerns, not knowing the next time they’ll be able to have fresh produce as part of their diet.
Each year, Borderlands rescues between 30 to 40 million pounds of produce –more than 39 different varieties of vegetables and fruit– from over 120 donors. Less than 1% of the donations are non-produce items such as milk, canned soup, cereal and other non-perishable items. Often times, at least 10% to 15% of the produce Borderlands is able to rescue is unusable, and is in turn sent to either local farmers as animal feed or trucked to the San Xavier Reservation for the University of Arizona compost Cat Program.
Of the produce that is usable, Borderlands distributes fresh produce to over 390 agencies and, through our direct distribution programs, to individual families (over 100,000 members), as follows: Santa Cruz County 20%, cities throughout Arizona 27%, throughout United States 17%, International (Mexico) 16%, animal feed 9%, 5% compost 9%, with the remainder classified as waste.
In 2015 Borderlands transported 39 million pounds of produce with Borderlands’ trucks having driven 218,600 miles delivering tons of fresh produce.