We’Re On Our Own

Outside food supplies dry up just as Rim Country food banks face season of peak need


Beyond Limits group members recently donated 1,023 pounds of food to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. Each year the group collects food for 30 days and then takes it to the food bank for distribution.

Beyond Limits group members recently donated 1,023 pounds of food to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. Each year the group collects food for 30 days and then takes it to the food bank for distribution. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Emaciated food supply shipments from the Valley have left area food banks hungry for donations.

Payson’s St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank hasn’t received a delivery from the Valley in months, while government-subsidized food shipments have dwindled to half their former size.

Food bank manager Michael Haines said that equates to more than 20,000 fewer pounds of food in the past two months.

As a result, only local donations have kept the food bank open and shelves stocked.

Payson Area Food Drive (PAFD) chair Roger Kreimeyer said that makes this year’s food drive more critical than ever, even though the number of families needing help has actually started to decline.

Moreover, the crisis comes just as the harvest from the Payson Community Garden slows.

Gardeners donated thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables from the garden to the food banks this summer.

“Fellow Payson citizens, the food banks are in trouble,” Kreimeyer said. “Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Food bank shelves are being emptied while shipments from the Valley have dropped significantly. For these reasons and the needs of our community, we are activating the Payson Area Food Drive ASAP.”

The drive normally kicks off around Thanksgiving, with donation boxes placed at grocery stores and businesses around town.

Donations can also be dropped directly now at either St. Vincent, 511 S. St. Phillips Street, or at Community Presbyterian Church’s food bank, 800 W. Main Street.

Haines said his stock of food is so low he has considered closing the food bank one day a week, going from four days to three.

That likely won’t happen, though, because the demand remains steady.

Last month, St. Vincent handed out 500 food boxes, feeding roughly 1,700 people.

This is slightly less than a few months ago, but Haines expects the need to increase with the winter approaching.

Most worrisome, it doesn’t appear donations from the Valley St. Vincent will pick up soon.

“This is first time in the three years that I’ve been (at the food bank) that we haven’t got a truck in two months,” he said. “And I don’t know if we’ll get one this month.”

The Valley is struggling to keep up demand as well as stock partner agencies around the state.

Any extra food is sent to Tucson before it reaches Payson.

Shipments from the Valley normally account for a large chunk of Payson’s food bank supply.

Food shipments from the government account for the other half. But those have also diminished.

Last month, Haines said he only received two pallets of food from United Food. The normal haul is eight to 10 pallets.

Luckily, the community has responded generously, he said.

At the group’s annual Walk for the Poor, $18,000 was collected.

As fast as it comes in, the food bank spends it.

Each month, St. Vincent is spending $6,000 at Walmart for food.

A big help this summer, he said, were donations from the community garden.

Recipients received fresh fruits and vegetables in their boxes nearly every week — a rarity.

Unfortunately, the growing season has ended and the food bank has no way to buy fresh vegetables, Haines said.

On Tuesday, St. Vincent received a windfall of more than 1,000 pounds of food from Beyond Limits, a ministry group that works with disabled adults.

Since 2005, Beyond Limits has collected food for St. Vincent. This year, they collected a record amount in one month — 1,023 pounds.

The food bank is asking the public to help by donating items, including tuna, soup, chili, pasta, beans, tomatoes, fruits and vegetables, cereal, juice and cash.

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