Chandler food banks see rising need, falling help - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler food banks see rising need, falling help

August 15th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler food banks see rising need, falling help

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Organizers say that even in the best of times, feeding those in need is a challenge. And these are not the best of times.

Chandler’s leading food banks say demand is up, and donations are down.

“Yeah, things have definitely increased,” said Mike Dippre, who is the operations director at Matthew’s Crossing Food Bank. “We just went to, we were once a month service before COVID.

“We went to once a week service during COVID, and we just switched back to twice a month on July 1 just to try and control our quantities of food that we’re handing out.”

Dippre said even with that restriction, they are averaging handing out groceries to about 110 families a day. And the number is going up.

“And believe it or not, doing it every two weeks, we’ve given out more food this month than in prior months,” Dippre said.

They’re not alone.

“We are at about 54% increase in our community,” said Paula Knight, the food bank manager at AZCEND. “And we are trying to make sure that we can provide three to four days’ worth of food to all of our clients and the community.”

Knight said they are providing food to about 3,000 families each month. That’s about 50 families a day, she said.

“So our rescue stores’ [donations] have gone down, unfortunately, but thanks to the community with all their donations, throughout the year, we are able to purchase food,” Knight said.

A recent study claims that 2.2 million Arizonans each year will skip a meal or reduce the amount of food they consume because of rising costs.

The demand for food has steadily been increasing. Jerry Brown, director for communications for St. Mary’s Food Bank, said they saw an increase between 20-and-25% in March over the same month the previous year.

This month that number is up to 60%. Brown said at the same time demand is increasing, donations are falling.

“We need food,” he said.

He said St. Mary’s delivers food to about 300,000 families a day statewide. Brown said some of the causes for the increase in demand could be tied to increasing inflation impacting both gas and food prices and higher housing costs.

Dippre said many of the people who show up at their door looking for food may only be there once.

“We had a statistic right before COVID hit that 40% of our people only come here once,” he said. “So it’s just like, one day, they’re down on their luck, their car broke down, and they have to pay the mechanic instead of buying food.”

Dippre said the problems they hear about today are much longer-lasting.

“We had several today that are being displaced because of housing,” he said. “So they’re either homeless or living in their vehicles, and, it sort of tears at you a little bit.”

Knight said she’s not sure why they are seeing more people at AZCEND.

“Why? I don’t know, we’re here to fight hunger,” she said. “And that’s what I’m here to do. I enjoy doing that every single day, and I just make sure that there’s enough food to provide for our clients.”

Dippre said they never want to turn someone away empty handed, but they are enforcing their every 14-days rule right now to ensure they have enough food for everyone.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can,” Dippre said. “We’re going to hopefully never have to deny someone totally.”