Food banks are finding new ways to fight hunger in Arizona, even as the need has risen dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’re expanding services to college students, partnering with small farmers to keep produce local and incorporating indigenous staples into tribal food boxes.
But the core mission of the Arizona Food Bank Network, which coordinates efforts between five regional food banks and nearly 1,000 food pantries, remains the same: eliminating hunger for the nearly one in seven Arizonans at risk of food insecurity.
Arizona Republic readers who support the Season for Sharing campaign help fund the Arizona Food Bank Network.
HOW TO DONATE: Make a gift to Season for Sharing here.
Last year, Season for Sharing raised $2.1 million and provided more than $205,000 in grants to organizations working to feed children and families, including:
$45,000 to the Arizona Food Bank Network for programs that help children, seniors and other vulnerable populations so that all Arizonans have access to healthy food.
$35,000 to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance for meals to benefit low-income, food-insecure hungry children and adults.
$30,000 to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to feed more than 11,000 food-insecure Arizonans nutritious daily meals, particularly in families with school-aged children.
$10,000 to AZCEND for 12,000 food boxes.
$7,500 to U.S.VETS – Phoenix for 70,000 meals and food boxes for homeless and at-risk veterans and families in Maricopa County.
“You realize how close so many families are to not meeting the most basic of needs, which is food,” said Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of the Arizona Food Bank Network, said. “Many of the folks we saw in food banks (during the pandemic) said, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this.’”
“That opened up a lot of opportunity to talk about the needs of our neighbors,” she added.
Phoenix residents Matt and Randi Scanlon and their two young boys were among the first-time families in need.
Matt was forced to close his recruiting business when jobs dried up, and Randi was out of work as a flight attendant.
They got by using food stamps and signing up their kids for free school breakfast and lunch.
“It was a lifesaver for us,” Randi, 45, said. “I didn’t think the rug could come out from underneath us. … Things are fine, and then all of a sudden they aren’t.”
The $400 to $600 in food assistance per month allowed the Scanlons to afford occupational therapy and other medical expenses for the boys.
“I don’t know what we would have done without that,” Randi said.
Being in the middle class, the couple never thought they would need help, Matt said. Now he realizes anyone can find themselves in dire straits.
Demand for food assistance in Arizona more than doubled at the height of the pandemic to roughly 1 million individuals and families per month, according to the Arizona Food Bank Network.
“Programs like this need to exist,” Matt said. “It was huge.”
How to Donate to Season for Sharing
With the help of Republic readers, Season for Sharing has raised and given away more than $70 million to Arizona nonprofits during the last 28 years. Help us continue helping our neighbors in need.
5 ways to give
Fill out the secure, online form at sharing.azcentral.com.
Text “SHARING” to 91-999 and click on the link in the text message.
Go online at facebook.com/seasonforsharing and look for the “DONATE HERE” post.
Clip the coupon on Page 4A of The Arizona Republic, fill it out and mail it to P.O. Box 29250, Phoenix AZ 85038-9250.
Scan the QR code with your smartphone camera, click on the link to donate.
Where does the money go?
When you give to Season for Sharing, you’re helping nonprofits that support education, feed the hungry and help struggling families. The Republic pays all administrative costs, so 100% of donations go back to the community.
Consumer reporter Rebekah L. Sanders investigates issues of fraud and abuse involving businesses, health care and government agencies. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @RebekahLSanders.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Season for Sharing: Arizona food banks keep families from going hungry