Phoenix, AZ – In 1966, just 45 years ago, years ago, there was no such thing as a food bank, and no established method for the distribution of food for the hungry.
On February 18, 2011 – 44 years after its doors originally opened – St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance will be celebrating its Founders Day and the birthday of the man who started it all: John van Hengel.
Current St. Mary’s Food employees will be getting out from behind their desks between 9 and 11 am that morning, and will be taking part in the true spirit of the food bank – directly helping the hungry by building emergency food boxes at the Del E. Webb Distribution Center, and carrying out boxes and loading up cars at the Knight Transportation Community Services Center on St. Mary’s Founders Day, to pay tribute to van Hengel, as well as the other individuals and companies that made this idea possible.
In 1967, Van Hengel coined the idea of a “bank” by inviting individuals and companies who had extra resources to make a “deposit” of food and funds so that agencies could make “withdrawals” without cost to help those in need. He later approached St. Mary’s Basilica with his idea of creating a central location for the donating and distributions, and thus, the first food bank was born.
Today, St. Mary’s Food Bank is the largest in the United States distributing 72 million pounds of food annually to 534 partner agencies in two-thirds of Arizona’s 15 counties. By using John van Hengel’s vision, communities all around the world are now able to help the hungry in their communities, too.
Van Hengel passed away in 2005. He would have been 88 this year.