It’s a scary situation that no one wants to find themselves in.
Out of food and not a dime to spare.
More and more Rim Country residents who have lost their jobs, now face the stark reality of hunger on a daily basis.
And it’s not just here that families feel the pangs of hunger. A new study by Feeding America, a nonprofit organization, finds that food banks across the country are being spread thin by increased demand from new visitors.
Of the 176 food banks surveyed by Feeding America, 98 percent attributed shortages to an increase in requests to new visitors.
“More and more families are waiting in lines overnight, coming out in high heat, or traveling long distances in rural America just to get a meal or a box of food. The humbling reality for many of these Americans is that they have never had to rely on emergency food assistance before, and they never dreamed they would find themselves in this situation,” said Vicki Escarra, president and C.E.O. of Feeding America.
Food banks, like Payson’s St. Vincent de Paul, are the only beacons of hope for many families that find themselves with nowhere to turn.
Not only do the organizations provide a box of food filled with the necessities to survive another few weeks, they also offer a helping hand, a listening ear and a patient heart.
Countless volunteers donate their time to make this happen, including Payson food bank manager Wayne Parent who you can find most afternoons inside the small facility accepting donations, sorting food and gingerly stocking his shelves. However, sometimes these shelves run empty, especially in recent months, with several hundred more individuals coming in for help.
Most of these individuals need more help than Parent and his volunteers can give.
Parent pointed out that most people who need help with food, often have other problems either with work or family. Volunteers do their best to help — paying rents when needed and suggesting avenues for counseling — however, it is impossible to fix everything.
So, while a can of food is not a cure all, the gesture of compassion remain essential. That is why we applaud the efforts of students at Payson’s Center for Success who rallied together to donate hundreds of cans last week when they heard the food bank’s shelves were low.
We also thank the volunteers who donate their time every week. While most of us might not be able to volunteer, we can surely empty our cabinets a little bit, donate and in the process fill someone else’s need.
This week’s tragic accident in which a driver on a quiet, wide-open road hit and killed seven elk underscores once more a deadly hazard on Rim Country roads. In this case, the driver escaped unharmed — but the dying animals were scattered down a heartbreaking stretch of highway.
The crash comes not long after another Rim Country resident died after striking an elk on his motorcycle.
We hope that every driver takes the sober lesson from this terrible cluster of events and resolves to drive with that extra care, knowing disaster may wait around each curve — or lurk in the shadows of the roadside trees.
We hope that the grim toll will drop when the Arizona Department of Transportation completes the widening of the highway outside of Pine and Payson and between Payson and Heber. Current plans call for elk-proof fencing along those roads, with many underpasses and crossings designed to let migrating elk move from one side of the highway to another, as they seek the meadows they need to survive.
On the face of it, the underpasses and fencing seem expensive. But not when set against the toll in lives and property. Nationally, each year perhaps 200 human drivers and more than 1.5 million elk and deer die in crashes with one another. With each crash costing an estimated $2,300 in property damage, these wildlife encounters cause $10 billion in damages annually. Moreover, cars kill perhaps 1 million other vertebrates every day while creating barriers that fragment habitat and threaten some species with extinction.
Historically, a car hits an elk about once a week along Highway 260 leading out of Payson toward the Mogollon Rim. Statewide, cars hit elk or deer more than 1,000 times a year, killing several drivers every year.
So we’re glad ADOT has researched elk crossing designs and has included those designs in the projects now under way.
But it will take months or years and millions of dollars to complete those improvements. In the meantime, drivers must rely on keeping their speed down and their eyes open to avoid fresh tragedy.