Less Federal Aid Makes Food Bank's Work Harder

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Joe Calderone's weekly shopping list includes 200 loaves of bread and 100 cans, bags and boxes of everything from fruit and vegetables to sugar, flour, potatoes and packages of meat.

Calderone, president of the St. Vincent de Paul/Payson Food Bank, spends $1,400 to $1,500 a month. He shops locally and gets a discount.

Calderone and 30 other St. Vincent de Paul volunteers provide 150 families each month with the basics for living. The St. Vincent de Paul/Payson Food Bank provided food and other essentials to local residents totaling nearly $70,000 last year.

But the job is getting harder.
"Basically the amount of food we got from the government was cut in half," Calderone said. "We used to get 140 to 150 cases of food per month from United Food Bank. Last month we got 72."

Calderone blames the loss of food from the government on the growing number of food banks around the country.

He said some 520 people a month are helped by the volunteers at the Payson Food Bank. In addition to providing food for the needy, the group helps people with lodging, travel and medical expenses.

Calderone said the Food Bank has a good supply of food, but not a diversity of items.

"I might have 50 cases of spaghetti and one case of jam," he said. "It's so much repetition."

The group's 24 x 24 building next to St. Phillips Church is now filled.

"That's because of Thanksgiving," said Calderone. "I just called down to our food bank in Phoenix and their warehouse is empty."

Closs said that a month ago, most of the shelves at the Payson Food Bank were empty "but we got a new supply from the basketball game Saturday between the cops and the clergy."

Calderone added that the middle school brought food, as did Mt. Cross Lutheran Church.

The Payson Food Bank also supplies Pine-Strawberry and St. Paul's Church in Payson and is in the process of opening another food bank in Christopher Creek.

"That's our next goal," Calderone said. "It's tough for people to get into town."

People who receive food from the Food Bank qualify through DES. Other needy families receive food from St. Vincent de Paul, a separate organization in charge of the Payson Food Bank.

The Catholic organization took over operation of the Food Bank in Payson five years ago. Prior to that it was run by an individual and volunteers.

Five years ago, the Payson Food Bank consisted of a single wall of food.

"They couldn't get enough help, and St. Vincent took over," Calderone said. "We work with other organizations and keep a pretty close tab on things, which we have to. Christmas is usually done by APS. We assist them."

Last year, the government contributed about $31,000 in food. Local organizations churches, school drives, the post office drive, and businesses, contributed $17,000 worth of food.

More than $21,000 came from grants, churches, individual donations, and fund raisers, such as the Law and Grace Basketball Game.

Now the Payson Food Bank has a 24 x 24-foot building filled and there's more in a warehouse outside.

"Whether that's prosperity or not, I don't know," Calderone said. "The need has grown 15 percent over last year.

"I remember four, five years ago, if we had $1,000 in the bank to operate, we were doing good. Now we're in a much better position, but the need has gotten much stronger also."

Closs looked around at the well-stocked shelves and the filled freezers. "Most of this will be gone after Thanksgiving," he said.

"You know, for a little town, that's a lot of business," Calderone said.

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