VOLUNTEERS DESPERATELY NEEDED TO HELP WITH
EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE
Arizona Department of Economic Security to begin referring people seeking emergency food boxes directly to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance
Phoenix, Ariz. – Because of an overwhelming spike in demand for food assistance, the Arizona Department of Economic Security will begin Monday directing all applicants directly to St. Mary’s Food Bank locations for registration. Because the Food Bank will now be filling out paperwork traditionally completed by DES, Food Bank officials are anticipating sharply increased traffic and longer wait times as they work to register individuals.
“This has the potential to be overwhelming to our distribution system,” said Terry Shannon, President and CEO of St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. “More people will be coming to us for help, and they will be staying longer because we’ll need to collect the information the state used to provide to us.”
To help process the anticipated influx, St. Mary’s Food Bank is seeking volunteers who will be trained to work in a clerical capacity to assist clients, write up emergency food box referrals, and explain the requirements for getting food assistance from St. Mary’s.
Help will be most needed at:
5605 N. 55th Avenue
Community Service Campus
3003 W. Thomas Road
For more information, call (602) 343-3128.
Food bank officials are also temporarily reassigning staff to help with the anticipated increase in demand, Shannon said.
The news comes at an already critical time for the food bank, he said. Demand for food is up 50% over last year, and in January, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance distributed more than 22,000 emergency food boxes, a 64% increase over last year.
“The demand for food hasn’t lessened since the holidays, but the number of volunteers helping us has,” Shannon said. “And now we find ourselves filling an additional role in order to help the community. For those who are interested in volunteering, this is an excellent way to not only help us, but to help their neighbors, and to see what an impact the food bank’s outreach has on individual lives.”
According to published reports, Arizona has added 123,000 food-stamp recipients since the recession began in December 2007, giving the state one of the nation’s fastest-growing caseloads. Overall, 721,318 Arizonans were receiving assistance as of November, according to the state. In 2008, the average monthly benefit per person was about $102, USDA figures show. That amounts to less than $3.40 in aid per day.
The emergency food boxes distributed by the Food Bank contain supplemental groceries to provide nutritional support. The box of staple food items supplies is intended to help stretch a household’s monthly food budget.