When Pam Boyer sets her mind to something, great things are bound to follow.
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With the help of volunteers, Pam runs Market On the Move, a nonprofit dedicated to finding uses for leftover food and other random items so they don’t go into landfills.
One way Market On the Move does this is by feeding families in need and people experiencing homelessness throughout Arizona. Each week, Pam rescues 50,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
She’ll speak with Mexican farmers, whom she gets to donate any excess produce they have. Once everything is loaded up on the truck, Pam makes her way back to Tucson so she and her volunteers can sort and distribute the food.
Anything that’s spoiled goes to local backyard farmers for their livestock. Otherwise, Pam makes sure everything gets composted.
“The produce that we receive, it can be overgrown, oversized, it can be scratched. It could be in the months when there is an abundance — too many watermelons, too many tomatoes,” Pam said. “Instead of going to the landfill, let’s feed people.”
When Market Day rolls around, Pam and her volunteers distribute the food they’ve worked so hard to gather for the people of Arizona. At 4 a.m., they begin setting everything up, and by 5:30 a.m., a line starts to form.
At just $10 for one lot of food, every family goes home with an abundance of produce. For example, on one Market Day, a lot of food included a bag of potatoes, a crate of cucumbers, roasting skewers, watermelons, 12 ears of corn, 10 tomatoes, eight yellow squash, and three bunches of bananas.
“We deliberately give a lot of food to one person. Each box is at least 60 pounds,” Pam said. “We’re trying to encourage them to not only fill their refrigerator but the refrigerator of others.”
Produce isn’t the only thing Pam saves from landfills. She has a whole warehouse full of all sorts of goodies, including secondhand computers, wrapping paper, knee pads, and more. Those items are sent to food banks, other nonprofits, and the public. For just $5, anyone can fill a bag with whatever they want.
Chuck, who’s been working with Pam for 20 years, repairs the secondhand computers. Any laptops they receive go to local kids as part of Tucson’s Free Lunch program. Everything beyond repair gets recycled.
The nonprofit constantly struggles to make ends meet, but rather than cutting back, they’re expanding. Pam is opening a discount store next door, and if all goes well, it will cover everything else.
Money is crucial to keep everything running, but nothing would be possible without all the hardworking volunteers who are so giving with their time.
“I have the best volunteers in the whole world. I tell ya, I can’t live without these guys… they make my world rock,” Pam said. “They are hardworking. They are crazy — you have to be crazy to work with me. And they make my life so enjoyable.”
Pam’s volunteers are passionate about feeding others, and that passion is what drives them to work immeasurably hard. But they also find themselves coming back week after week because Market On the Move is more than just a nonprofit. It’s a safe haven for anyone, no matter their background.
“I have failed at many, many things in my life. I have learned to rebuild it. I have had people give me a chance to rebuild,” Pam said. “And that’s how I try to treat my volunteers that are coming in, ’cause they’re family now. You let them run with it and where they fail you pick them up or give them a shoulder to cry on.”
Their work is taxing, more so than some can handle. Still, they’re more than happy with how they spend their time.
“Some of them come in sad and they get the laughter. Some of them, you know, they’re just sitting at home doing nothing. So it’s just a purpose and the purpose can be fun,” Pam said. “When I look in the mirror in the morning, I’m happy. When I look in the mirror at night, brushing my teeth, I’m happy.”
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