Payson’s community campaign to fight hunger is well under way with nearly $4,700 and several thousand pounds of food donated in just three weeks.
“We had a wonderful response for the Thanksgiving season, but we still have a long ways to go to get to our goal,” said Roger Kreimeyer, chairperson of the Payson Area Food Drive (PAFD).
PAFD, a coalition of community, church and charity groups, hopes to collect 50,000 pounds of food and $20,000 to help the food banks before February. The extra food will help the food banks feed the growing number of Rim Country residents unemployed or working fewer hours, especially during the holiday season when demand is traditionally higher.
“The food banks face a 250 percent increase in demand and a decrease in contributions,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans at a recent town council meeting.
After announcing the start of the anti-hunger campaign in early November, Kreimeyer said local businesses and residents stepped up immediately to donate. Already 15 businesses have placed food collection boxes out and another 14 boxes are at town and county buildings. The Boy Scouts collected 1,600 pounds of food through a door-to-door drive and are planning another neighborhood collection effort in January.
“The people of Payson know the need is great and people are responding not only with cans but with sacks of food.”
Last week, volunteers were out in full force collecting donations at Bashas’ and Walmart. People were happy to buy a sack of food and some even bought several bags, Kreimeyer said. In total, volunteers collected some 2,400 pounds of food in just four days.
On top of cans, Payson Town Councilor and PAFD member John Wilson said checks are arriving through the mail on a daily basis. The Rotary Club started donations off big with a $1,500 check.
Businesses are also offering customers who donate a discount on services and merchandise.
Payson Florist, Vita-Mart, Rim Country Lanes, PostNet, Macky’s Grill and Scoops are offering customers a percentage discount for donating.
“I want to give thanks for the response so far and let’s continue it until we reach our goals,” Kreimeyer said.
Currently, PAFD is stockpiling most of the food donated in a storage until the food banks need it. Fred Carpenter is organizing volunteers to sort the donated food into 10 categories and plans to start sorting this Wednesday.
PAFD is distributing food and money evenly between the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, Community Presbyterian Church, the Pine-Strawberry Food Bank and two other churches.
Mail checks to PAFD, P.O. Box 703, Payson, AZ 85547. Drop food off at Walgreens, the Payson Roundup, Rim Country Lanes, Vita-Mart, Chase Bank, National Bank of Arizona, Rim Golf Club Community Association, APS, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Payson Florist, Macky’s Grill and Scoops.