By Corinne Murdock |
Arizona’s food banks are faced with a burgeoning number of clientele, some maxing out their resources — a byproduct of the inflation crisis. This increase in families seeking out assistance was further prompted by the ending of pandemic-era stimulus checks, tax credits, and public benefits.
The Arizona Food Bank Network (AZFBN) told AZ Free News that their clientele has grown steadily since April. AFBN is a coalition of five regional food banks and nearly 1,000 pantries and agencies, including: Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, HonorHealth Desert Mission Food Bank, St. Mary’s Food Bank, United Food Bank, and Yuma Community Food Bank.
According to AZFBN President and CEO Angie Rodgers, clients say that inflation’s adverse impact on family budgets was a chief reason for turning to food banks. Rodgers noted that inflation has impacted their network’s purchasing power. Rodgers didn’t say definitively whether their network is struggling currently to meet the needs of their increased clientele.
“The food bank network has relied on donations and more increasingly, on the purchase of food, to help meet that demand,” said Rodgers. “Of course anytime demand goes up, we need a corresponding supply to meet that need. Some food banks are able to purchase additional items when donations are low. Others rely entirely on donations.”
Rodgers had a positive outlook: she said that the holidays tend to increase food and monetary donations as well as volunteers.
“We are grateful for this support. Many food banks this season will likely be asking for additional contributions to address the need,” said Rodgers.
According to the AZFBN, an average of 1 in 7 Arizonans face food insecurity — nearly 800,000 adults and 270,000 children. Food insecurity is defined as the occasional or constant lack of access to food.
AZ Free News also spoke with Paradise Valley Community Food Bank (PVCFB). Their executive director, Kay Norris, told us that food and monetary donations aren’t meeting their community’s need for the first time in 30 years. Their food bank feeds those in need who are working.
Norris shared that they’re booked up five days a week. They had to open up on Saturdays to meet the demand for the first time in 30 years — but even that day is booked up. Norris said they saw an increase in demand last year of 60 percent.
“I can tell you we’re seeing people that I know that have never been to a food bank before,” said Norris. “We can no longer take people who walk up, because we’re booked. They have to walk away.”
PVCFB relies on 140 to 150 volunteers a week during the school year to keep up with the demand. Even with an expansion in operations, Norris said that they’re in need of more donations to meet the growing community need.
“Eventually it’s going to catch up with us if we don’t have more donations,” said Norris.
The new class of faces lining up for assistance isn’t unique to PVCFB. St. Mary’s Food Bank told 12 News that many of those seeking assistance are first time clients, leading their clientele to nearly double compared to last year, from up to 650 clients daily to over 1,100 clients last Friday.