There are few natural distinctions between the two sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, but Gary Nabhan, a conservation biologist and sustainable agriculture researcher at the University of Arizona, says the economic distinctions are vast.
“The U.S.-Mexico border is the border with the greatest economic and food disparity anywhere in the world,” says Nabhan.
Nabhan’s work has looked closely at the Sonoran region food system and he says Nogales is an example of a border dynamic that has far-reaching implications for residents on both sides of the line.
“Sixty percent of all produce eaten in the United States during the winter months comes from Nogales,” he says. “Nogales is the most important port of entry for food anywhere in the world, yet it’s a superhighway with no exit ramp right at the border.”
According to Nabhan, food insecurity is concentrated along the border, but it extends far into the state of Arizona. In fact, recent studies pegged the number of households in Arizona that are food-insecure at 12.9 percent to 18.6 percent, and statistics rank Arizona third in the nation for childhood food-insecurity.
The first annual Border Food Summit brought together a multidisciplinary group of researchers to explore the intricacies of the border region's food system. presented a report titled Hungry for Change: Borderlands Food and Water in the Balance.
“It’s a report that looks at all aspects of our bi-national food system, and reminds Arizonans and Americans how dependent we are on Mexican labor, water, ingenuity, skills and resources to bring us our daily bread,” says Nabhan.