No one should have to go hungry, but due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more people are — 54 million in the U.S. may experience food insecurity in 2020, including a potential 18 million children.
Closer to home, food insecurity is a problem that two million Arizonans are faced with every year. And as Valley residents continue to recover from the economic downturn, local services are feeling the impact as their neighbors try to make ends meet.
“We’ve seen more multiple generation families — grandparents, parents and kids. I’d say we’ve increased maybe 15 to 18 percent,” said Kay Norris, interim director of the Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank. “But we’ve been keeping up with them, and I’m grateful for that, and our volunteers.”
Founded in 1986, the Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank provides emergency food assistance to individuals living within the boundaries of the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools). The private food pantry does not operate under the auspices of any governmental or religious organization, and it is entirely volunteer run.
PVSchools (pvschools.net/about) covers 98-square miles of Northeast Phoenix and North Scottsdale in an area bounded by 7th Avenue and Pima Road, and Northern Avenue and Jomax Road. For the food bank’s two main programs, Weekend Food4Kids Backpack and Family Assist, that translates into roughly 800 Title 1 school students, 34 weeks of the school year, and 10,000–11,000 individuals every year, respectively.
A major source for the food bank’s stock is from food drives. Norris noted, “Schools last year donated over 60,000 pounds of food. And then we had synagogues and churches, Boy Scouts…” She added that all of that changed in early 2020, “We don’t have those food drives. We haven’t had any since March. So, we have relied on donations to purchase food, and we have never purchased so much food in our entire history.”
With physical donations down and their donated funds being spent on food, donations of items such as toilet paper, shampoo and other personal items have become a necessity. Of course, the need for food is constant, and non-perishable food items are always welcome. Donations can be brought to the Phoenix food bank at 10862 North 32nd St., 9am–3:30pm, Monday through Friday.
The work that is done could not be accomplished without the organization’s many volunteers.
“Our volunteers have been wonderful,” Norris said. “We’ve had to change everything. The day that the pandemic came, a third of our volunteers let us know they couldn’t be volunteering anymore.”
While many older volunteers and those with health issue have had to stay home, Norris said that the organization has been blessed with an influx of new recruits from area churches and through volunteermatch.org. And they always welcome additional support.
Above all, Norris wants residents to know that the food bank is there to help, regardless of circumstances, no questions asked, “If you live in the school district, you are welcome. We are here to serve everyone.” Si usted vive en el distrito escolar, por favor venga a nuestra Despensa Comunitaria DE Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank. Estamos aquí para servir a todos.
No one should have to go hungry, and thanks to organizations like the Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank and those who support it, fewer North Valley neighbors will. |CST
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Photos courtesy of Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank