Food Collected During Drive Nearly All Given Out

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Launching a food drive in the middle of a recession would normally be abortive. But the Payson Area Food (PAF) Drive was a fruitful event, raising enough funds and cans to keep the local food bank’s stockpiles plump.

Since raising 50,000 pounds of food and $20,000 this past winter, the PAF committee has been busy giving that food away to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. Nearly two-thirds of collected food has been handed out to needy families who would otherwise go hungry.

“Thank goodness they had that money and food raised, because it has kept us going very well,” said Wayne Parent, food bank manager. “It has taken a lot of pressure off of us.”

Every month, the food bank feeds more than 1,000 Rim Country residents. In April, the food bank fed 1,800 individuals and roughly 1,550 in May.

Filling that demand can be a struggle, especially during a recession when people are less apt to give, especially cash, which is used to purchase perishable items infrequently donated.

While Parent appreciates that donated can of mandarin oranges or that bottle of pancake syrup never opened, monetary donations let Parent order the things the food bank really needs, like milk, eggs, cheese, fruits and meats. These are the staples of any good diet, but seldom given by well-intentioned donors.

Thanks to the food drive, the food bank is expected to receive an estimated $1,800 this month for purchasing those items, and additional funds in the months to come when needed.  

“This will provide significant help for the next 10 months or more,” said Roger Kreimeyer, chair of the PAF drive.

In addition, a steady stream of food has made its way to the food bank shelves, a welcomed relief for Parent and food bank volunteers.

“This food drive has helped big time,” Parent said.

“The PAF has come through, and we continue to give out food at the same rate we always have.”

When food supplies dipped in the past, Parent would order food from a Valley food bank, typically shelling out $1,000 each time. On average, Parent ordered 10 times a year from the Valley.

So far this year, Parent has saved $2,000 by using PAF drive donations instead. For January and May, Parent simply called the PAF drive committee, drove over to their storage locker full of food and loaded up what he needed.

Parent’s next trip to the storage locker was last week. Volunteers will now transfer the remaining food to the food bank’s storage building.

So far, other area food banks have not needed any PAF drive donations.

Compared with last year, the number of families coming in for food boxes has decreased slightly, although new clients continue to stream in. Parent believes families have moved out of the area but will soon begin trickling back in as temperatures in the Valley rise.

Kreimeyer said if needed, the PAF drive committee would start another food drive.

“Our plans are to meet the needs of the community,” he said.

“If they are coming up against tough times, we can come right back to work. The best way to continue giving is to give directly to the food bank.”

From November through February, volunteers with the PAF drive pounded the streets, standing tirelessly outside of stores and putting donation boxes up throughout town.

The community responded to the effort, donating well above a goal of 50,000 pounds and $20,000. Recently, the Mogollon Health Alliance donated $1,400, bringing the grand total to more than $22,000, Kreimeyer said.

“My hat is off to the community, because they really stepped forward,” he said.

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