Julie was in the middle of a divorce and was finding it difficult to pay all of her bills while trying to feed her three young children.
Nearing the end of her rope, she turned to the place she knew she could count on --the Payson Food Bank.
"I used the food bank a long time ago, and when things started getting a little tight, I decided it was time to ask for help," Julie said. "My kids would not have been able to have their vegetables and meat if it hadn't have been for the food bank."
The food bank, also known as St. Vincent de Paul, is facing hard times of its own.
Joe Calderone, president of the local branch, said his cupboards are nearly bare, due mainly to an unusually high number of clients seeking help from the food bank.
"In a normal month, we used to get about 150 cases of food donated from United Food Bank," Calderone said Monday. "This month, we only got 50 cases. Plus, they sent us five cases of canned pop, Frito Lay's potato chips, Starburst candy --not exactly a nutritious meal."
Donations by local philanthropists have also fallen off, he said.
"In a normal month, we serve about 150 families from the local food bank. We're at 158 as of today, and we'll hit about 180 by the end of the month," he said. "We're having to spend about $2,500 a month at the local grocery stores to keep our shelves full.
"It's just gone crazy."
Ironically, he said, when the government chips in with surplus foods, recently they've been strange items like white tuna. "I can't even afford to buy white tuna," Calderone said. "What we really need are the staples --flour, vegetables, beans."
The annual food-raiser sponsored by the United States Postal Service, set for May 8, should go a long way toward replenishing his depleted stocks.
On that day, letter carriers all over the Rim country will collect non-perishable foods, like canned vegetables, canned fruits, soups, pastas, cereal and rice.
"It's coming at just the right time," Calderone said. "The post office normally brings us about 8,000 pounds of food, but we always need more. What they bring us generally won't last the summer."
To help bolster the Payson Food Bank's supplies, leave your donations by your mailbox May 8. Your letter carrier will do the rest.
Folks wishing to help out before May 8 can call Calderone with their donations, or stop by the Payson Food Bank at St. Philip's Catholic Church.
The cost of giving
There are several items on the wish list of the Payson Food Bank, staples that could mean the difference between a happy or hungry child.
The following are examples of what it costs to help fill the need:
- Store-brand rice (5-pound bag): $2.59
- Store-brand spaghetti (3-pound package): $2.99
- Store-brand peaches or pears (12 cans): $11.88
- Store-brand chicken noodle soup (24 cans): $15.60
- Del Monte vegetables (24 cans): $14.40
Other items in great demand by the food bank include tuna, canned dinners, peanut butter, infant formula and baby food.