Chandler food bank sees hunger spiking - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler food bank sees hunger spiking

December 7th, 2021 development
Chandler food bank sees hunger spiking

Chandler food bank sees hunger spiking

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

The average price of gasoline is getting close to $4 a gallon. The cost of food is at a 10-year high. It’s no surprise with those two staples rising that more East Valley families are struggling.

The number of new clients seeking help from the Matthew’s Crossing food bank had nearly doubled in the past month, said Jan Terhune, its executive director.

“We’re seeing many, many more new clients who admittedly will say they never thought they would find themselves at a food bank,” Terhune said. “I think it’s a couple of things. The stimulus money is high and dry now, but two, grocery shopping is really expensive.”

Terhune said this time last year they had about 50 people per day walk-in looking for food for their families. Now, that number is 90. And that doesn’t represent the full increase in demand.

Matthew’s Crossing is doing a lot more remote service now than they did a year ago, taking food to mobile locations and in some cases directly to some seniors who don’t want to leave their homes because of the pandemic.

“We recognized seniors weren’t coming to us anymore,” Terhune said. “They shouldn’t get out, they couldn’t get out, and so we launched doorstep delivery.”

In addition to delivering food to seniors, Matthew’s Crossing is also helping college students. Terhune said they entered into a partnership with Arizona State University to create a mobile marketplace so students could have fresh food.

She said they are planning to expand that service to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and Mesa Community College, which currently only have food pantries that don’t include fresh food.

“It’s alarming,” Terhune said. “Thirty-eight percent of college students face hunger insecurity. Of those, and let this just sink in, 12 percent are homeless.”

The nonprofit also delivers food to senior centers and veterans facilities. And, it runs a student hunger program called Meals to Grow that serves 85 schools in the East Valley.

All those deliveries and extra meals have increased their costs, and that was before factoring in the jump in both food and gas prices.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index hit a 10-year high in October of this year. The last time food cost as much as it does today was July 2011. On a year-on-year basis, that’s a 31.3 percent increase.

As an example, Terhune said they spent $4,000 more this year for turkeys for Thanksgiving than they did a year ago. They distributed 700 Thanksgiving meal baskets last month.

It’s not just food that is costing families more. The average price of gas reached about $3.78 a gallon earlier this week.

Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank has more food go through its doors than any other food pantry in the East Valley. It serves more than 124,000 people per year.

Terhune said early in the pandemic they were unable to buy food in bulk from area grocery stores as nearly everyone was dealing with supply issues. She said that forced them to go to distributors. Instead of buying boxes, they now are buying pallets. Doing so required a lot more up-front cost.

“The cash outlay on a pallet is a lot different than picking up, you know, 500 at WinCo and 250 at Costco,” Terhune said. “The cash outlay was really quite troublesome.”

Terhune said their clients would shatter a lot of stereotypes of the people who need help. She said 40 percent are white, which is about the same as Latinos. And she said they are not people taking advantage of charity.

She said about 40 percent receive food only once, and don’t come back.

But many may need to get the help for longer than that.

“As long as groceries are expensive, and gas is expensive, I think our demand here will stay high,” Terhune said.


How to help

What: Matthew’s Crossing
Food Bank

Donate: You can donate up to $400 per individual and $800 per couple and get a full tax credit from the State of Arizona.

Food drives: The nonprofit relies heavily on food drives and say many groups stopped doing them during the pandemic. More food drives would help.

Volunteer: Matthew’s Crossing is always looking for volunteers to help pack and distribute food to people in need.


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