Extra state funds help food banks expand SanTan Sun News

Extra state funds help food banks expand

July 8th, 2019 SanTan Sun News
Extra state funds help food banks expand
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SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

A big boost in money by the State Legislature will help food banks in Chandler and around the state quickly and safely distribute more perishable food to people in need.

The Association of Arizona Food Banks (AAFB) and its members recently thanked lawmakers for a one-time allocation of $950,000 for the statewide food bank network.

The money is needed to safely store and quickly distribute an increasing amount of perishable food to people in Arizona struggling with hunger.

In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the statewide emergency food network — comprising the Association of Arizona Food Banks, as well as churches and food pantries — distributed 185 million pounds of food to working families, older adults and other clients who needed it. That is equivalent to about 150 million meals.

The network also got another 689 truckloads of food via the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Food Purchase and Distribution Program, which is a part of the federal administration’s short-term trade mitigation package.

The package aims to bring temporary relief to American farmers and producers who could not sell their products overseas because of the ongoing trade disputes.

“Our food banks have been grateful for the high-quality foods coming from the USDA trade mitigation efforts because, with higher prices, our clients don’t often have access to these items,” Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of the Association of Arizona Food Banks said. “But the amount of food stretches our network beyond capacity.

“Without these additional resources from the state, we run out of cooler space to store all the milk, pork and other perishables we’re getting. We’re just very excited for the opportunity. We’re thrilled that we’re going to be able to distribute more food to families who need it. The food we have been getting is very healthy.”

The Association of Arizona Food Banks is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1984 that serves five regional food bank members, as well as a network of nearly 1,200 food pantries and agencies.

It helps with the transportation and procurement of food and works with schools and other community organizations to provide children with more access to school meals and food during the summer.

The nonprofit organization also tries to help support communities in acquiring the resources they need and educates policymakers about good nutrition policies, Rodgers said.

“There are some wonderful food banks in Chandler,” she said.

One of them is Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank at 1368 N. Arizona Ave., a nonprofit organization that helps individuals and families in need in the East Valley. That organization got $11,911 from the state allocation and used the money to buy a third refrigerator.

Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank has also had a chance to get more produce.

The new cooler is invaluable to the local nonprofit.

“Capacity’s always a problem for small nonprofits like Matthew’s Crossing,” Jan Terhune, executive director of Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank said.

“Now we have three coolers and two freezers. Demand for our emergency food assistance program has grown exponentially,” he added. “If we didn’t make a concerted effort to address capacity, we would have just had to stop. Allocations like this and others have allowed us to get more space, to get more cooling units. We’re excited to be in this position.”

Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank had expected to serve more than 120,000 people in the fiscal year that just wrapped up June 30.

The organization also received an Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation Ken Kendrick Grand Slam Award of $100,000 to buy a refrigerated van. This will be Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank’s second refrigerated van.

“When you’re a small nonprofit there are limited resources for capital improvements if you will,” Terhune said.

The USDA announced on May 23 that its trade mitigation attempts would continue in fiscal year 2020 and include an even greater volume of food purchases to be distributed through food banks, schools and other outlets that help working families and low-income people.

That means a higher volume of perishable items are coming to Arizona’s food banks, as well as a bigger need for support.

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