Payson is scrambling to mount a new food drive, after an unexpected surge in the number of Rim Country families seeking help from food banks in October and November.
At last week’s council meeting, Councilor Su Connell announced the town will line up behind a food drive intended to raise 55,000 pounds of food and $25,000 — about 10 percent more than last year.
The drive officially kicks off today, Tuesday, with Turkey Tuesday. Community activists hope that people will buy an extra Thanksgiving turkey and drop off the extra birds at bins in Bashas’ or at St. Vincent de Paul’s food bank.
The food drive will continue into February and wind up on Super Bowl Sunday.
The drive will support food banks in Payson, Tonto Basin and Pine Strawberry, including operations at St. Vincent de Paul and the Community Presbyterian Church.
Connell noted that with unemployment remaining at 11 percent in Gila County, many families that have never sought help before have exhausted their resources and now must choose between skipping meals and paying the rent.
Surveys show that an alarming 18 percent of Americans have struggled to pay for enough food to eat in the past year.
Among those getting help from food banks in Arizona, children and senior citizens account for 41 percent.
An estimated 15 percent of Arizona families report they have skipped meals for lack of money to buy food. A surprising 28 percent of Arizonans surveyed said they at some point in the year had to choose between food and medications. People who want to donate can mail a donation to: Payson Area Food Drive, Box 703, Payson, AZ 85541.