Thanks to a last-minute push on Super Bowl or “Souper Bowl” Sunday, for the third year, the Payson Area Food Drive has met its donation goal.
This year, 68,200 pounds of food was collected, the weight equivalent of three school buses. That is enough food to fill 1,364, 50-pound food boxes, the average amount given to families at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank.
Donations are up 15,000 pounds from last year, and several thousand pounds above this year’s final goal of 65,000 pounds.
In cash, the drive collected nearly $35,000 — $10,000 more than last year’s drive.
Food drive organizers said this year’s totals beat all expectations.
“I would like to tell everyone in Payson thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Michael Haynes, St. Vincent’s food bank manager.
PAFD chair Roger Kreimeyer said he does not have the words to say how thankful he is to the community, who not only beat the drive’s initial 55,000-pound goal in November, but also set a new collection record.
Many residents and organizations donated more than once and some families gave even though they barely had enough to support themselves, Kreimeyer said.
“Some people sacrificed so others could have,” he said.
“This drive shows the wonderful spirit of this community. It really lets them (food bank recipients) know that we really do care about them and are aware of their struggle to keep ahead on bills and buy food.”
Payson’s two local food banks, St. Vincent and Community Presbyterian Church, have seen a swell in need in recent years both from the working poor and unemployed.
In December and January, St. Vincent gave out 1,120 food boxes, feeding 3,545 persons. As demand remains steady locally, supplies have been running short, Haynes said.
That is because the Valley St. Vincent, which provides food to St. Vincent food banks throughout the state, cannot keep up with demand. That means fewer shipments to Payson.
Haynes said he plans to start drawing from the PAFD donations next month because he will likely not get a shipment from the Valley.
Community Presbyterian Church has already given out 1,000 pounds collected from the drive.
The Souper Bowl Sunday drive Feb. 5 brought in roughly 1,500 pounds of food, collected from local churches. Other organizations that helped with collections or donated include the hospital, Boy Scouts, government employees, Payson Unified School District students, Rotary, local media and countless local businesses, Kreimeyer said.
Even though the PAFD is over, Kreimeyer encourages residents to continue donating directly to local food banks throughout the year.