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N4T Investigators: Tons of produce dumped into landfill - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Tons of produce dumped into landfill

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RIO RICO -

It's just another day during dumping season at the Rio Rico landfill. Trucks file in one by one to dump their loads, as soon as one pulls out, another pulls in.

Local rescue missions, estimate there are more than 36,000 homeless people in Arizona. The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona has seven locations, and says one in four children go to bed hungry every night. So why are tons of produce dumped in the landfill nearly everyday? 

"Fresh, not rotten, we could see nothing wrong with it," Campbell said.

Friends Mark Campbell and Jeff Horwitz were shocked by what they saw. 

"It's a travesty, just the amount that I see going into that dump," Horwitz said. 

"It's just so wasteful," Campbell said, "it appalled us both."

The Mariposa port of entry in Nogales is the largest in the country for produce imports from Mexico. According to the Fresh Produce Association, 6.3 billion tons were imported last season alone. Nogales is also home to 300 produce brokers. 

The News 4 Tucson Investigators reached out to one of companies dumping, Ruby Farms, for the answer but they never got back to us, so we asked one of their truck drivers. The driver said the food was inedible due to decay and bacteria. 

"It hurts me to know this product is going into the landfill," Espinoza said. 

Arthur Espinoza with the Nogales Food Bank says the people he serves would love a box of the vegetables being dumped.

"There's just a little scarring, we can deal with scarring it's really the nutrition value this brings to the table," Espinoza said examining a tomato that had been in the landfill hours earlier. 

Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association, says in the big picture just a small amount of food is wasted.

"Sometimes the market can't accept it, the food bank is full because of oversupply and the only economic thing to do is to dump it, and we hate to see it happen," Jungmeyer said, "but as a percentage of what comes through Nogales it's a very small percentage." 

About .2% by Jungmeyer's estimation. But the concern remains, with so many hungry people, how can so many boxes of nutritious produce be plowed under?

"We're just a few miles from Mexico where there's people without food, and even here in Tucson there's so many people that can use this food," Campbell said. 

With so many produce companies within a stone's throw of the Nogales Food Bank, Espinoza wants them to know they're always looking for more food to give out.

"It hurts my heart, it breaks my heart because we want to make sure and maybe these donors do not know we exist," Espinoza said. 

The Fresh Produce Association says this growing season has been unusually bountiful in several parts of the country, with farmers in Florida, Texas and California all facing similar problems. 

If you have a story you would like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

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