Community Initiatives: From ‘Food Desert’ to ‘Food Oasis’ through Gardening

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

The Ajo Food Partnership is one of three projects, alongside the ELDER Initiative and City of South Tucson Neighborhood Revitalization Partnership, currently funded through the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona’s Collective Impact Initiative, which was made possible by generous donors to our unrestricted endowment.

In Ajo, the lack of natural food choices led to increased obesity, diabetes and other health related issues. Three years ago, eleven organizations came together to face their health risks and transform the community from a USDA-recognized food desert to a desert oasis.

Recently, Arizona Public Media’s Ashley Grove visited the partnership to learn how the town of 3,000 residents has instituted and expanded home and community gardening projects, including creating more than 22,000 square feet of garden space and a farmers market.

Don Luria, a board member of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and chair of Slow Food Southern Arizona, said the two organizations made strategic investments to spur change. The Foundation’s CEO Clint Mabie explained CFSA has been a pioneer in the development of the collective impact strategy of grant making, which develops a team approach to solving the systemic issues the community faces.

“Our deep thanks to the Ajo team that is reintroducing natural foods to the area to fight the diabetes and obesity problems that hinder the growth and prosperity of the community,” said Mabie.

For more information about the Ajo Food Partnership, CFSA’s Program Services, Community Initiatives and ways you can make a difference, please contact Barbara Brown at