In the Arizona Desert, Tucson Models Affordable Food Access

Tucson is a foodie town. But rather than artisan breads and local avocados drawing crowds of tourists, it’s the relationship between diverse plants and people that earned it the distinction of being the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States in 2015.

The UNESCO distinction came as a result of Tucson’s long agricultural history and its wide-ranging efforts to preserve its food heritage and increase access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods for all residents. And a recent report from the University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies, on the “State of Tucson’s Food System,” delved further into how the city can use its UNESCO designation to further improve its food system.

“We didn’t get the City of Gastronomy designation because we have 40 gourmet restaurants with James Beard Award winners,” said ethnobotanist and report co-author Gary Nabhan. “We got it because we’re trying to deal with the basic food security and food justice needs that any community in America is really dealing with.”

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The Greenest Party

On South Tucson Boulevard, in an abandoned special needs school, resides Merchant’s Garden. Outside of a large greenhouse on what could have been a playground at one time, there is no indication that a farm actually exists. At first I thought I was lost but when a modular classroom door opened, a slender man in a distressed ball cap waved and welcomed me in.

Chaz Shelton is the founder and CEO of Merchant’s Garden, who started the company with his father in 2015.

“Honestly, before this, I had zero agriculture experience,” says Shelton with a bright smile. “I was in health care and I just saw a big need for healthy food. So together we got this property and built a greenhouse. Then it started to take off from there.”

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Why Doesn’t Tucson’s Mexican Food Scene Get More National Attention?

In the fall of 2012, I discovered the best hot sauce in the United States in, of all places, Tucson.

I had just finished a lecture at the University of Arizona on my then-new book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. My host was Maribel Alvarez, a professor of anthropology at the school who is the executive program director for the Southwest Folklife Alliance. She documents food traditions of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, and she sent me back home with a goody bag of regional delights: carne seca (sundried beef), tepary beans (a small, meaty legume grown by natives since time immemorial) and flour tortillas called sobaqueras that are the size of a basketball hoop.

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Taste UNESCO’s Creative Cities of Gastronomy

In November, the mouthful that is UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) selected San Antonio, Texas, as a Creative City of Gastronomy. It’s one of only two cities in the USA with such gastronomic status: Tucson, Ariz., made the list in 2015.

If you’re asking yourself “what’s so tasty about the desert,” you’re asking the wrong question.

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9 Reasons Why We Were Dragged Kicking and Screaming from This Desert City

If you’re a Goldilocks kind of traveler like we are, you may at first glance be turned off by Phoenix’s enormous sprawl. Meanwhile, there’s mystical Sedona and charming Flagstaff, both pretty—but also kinda petite. But, wait. Tucked into the state’s southeast corner is enchanting Tucson. A multi-culti blend of Native American, Mexican and European influence with a population of a half million chill peeps and a harmonious blend of city and nature, Tucson is juuust right. Sunny, funky and always buzzing, we’re darn near in love with the place and predict you will be too. Here’s why…

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A Conversation with Gary Paul Nabhan about the State of Tucson’s Food System

It’s the diversity of life–of species, genes, textures, flavors and nutrients–embedded in the meals we eat, and in every garden, farm, food forest and ranch from which we gain our “daily bread.” It includes the cornucopia of crop seeds, fruit trees, bulbs, cuttings of herbs, mushrooms, wild edibles, livestock, poultry, fish and game in our food system. And it’s part of the larger realm of biocultural diversity–the know-how for wisely and sustainably harvesting, processing and eating diverse foods.

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New Report: Tucson is a Leading U.S. City in Food Diversity and Access

Tucson is one of the top cities in the United States conserving and disseminating edible biodiversity and local heritage foods, a new report reveals. Released by the University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies, the second annual “State of Tucson’s Food System” documents Tucson’s rich variety of common, heritage, native, and heirloom plant species and varieties available, often at little or no cost, in its local economy.

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2017, ArticleAnthony Bacinski
Report Hails Tucson’s Excellence in Food Diversity

It is the second anniversary of Tucson’s designation as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S.

The University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies has issued the second annual report on Tucson’s food system, focusing on the role of the “edible biodiversity” of more than 2,020 varieties of 340 food plant species in the local economy. This report documents how Tucson is an international leader in conserving and providing access to food biodiversity learned.

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2017, ArticleAnthony Bacinski
Tucson City of Gastronomy Employee Brings New Focus to the Table

t’s been two years since Tucson was designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, a title reflective of Tucson’s rich food history and culture. In November, the Tucson City of Gastronomy board hired Erik Stanford, who worked as a chef at the Cup Café, The Carriage House, Exo Roast Co., and 5 Points Market and Restaurant before launching his own food hub, Pivot Produce.

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Raising funds to send Tucson chefs to UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy

Turkey and stuffing aren’t the only foods on the menu this week in the Old Pueblo.

The Tucson City of Gastronomy Chefs on a Global Stage event will offer fare such as roast pork shoulder adobado with chipotle Anasazi beans, shrimp tacos with Sonoran white wheat tortillas and other distinctive dishes that celebrate the flavors of the region from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Carriage House, 125 S. Arizona Ave.

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