Thu, April 02

Food bank hungry for expansion cash

Staff photo by Philip Wright

CAROL STOOS, a volunteer at the Central Arizona Food Bank, places food supplies into a box for one of the bank's clients.

A rapidly growing demand for food in the Verde Valley has left the food bank at 654 N. Main St. squeezed for storage and food preservation.

"We've got to have better facilities for cooling and freezing," said John Ask, community resource specialist for the food bank. "The number of people moving into the Valley is increasing, including many elderly."

Ask said the food bank will expand behind the existing building.

"Also, we want to be able to store food and to have space to process the people who come in," Ask said.

He said the current space used to meet the food bank's needs.

"But with a better than 30-percent increase in people who need our help during the past year, It doesn't work anymore."

Ask said a slow economy, unemployment and low wages in the valley have combined to increase the demands on the food bank. "Forty percent of the people who come through our door already have a full-time job," he said. "That's a national statistic."

And come through the door, they do. The all-volunteer food bank will have about 72,000 points of service in a year. And that number is growing steadily. A point of service is contact between the bank and a client who receives food. Some people come on a fairly regular basis, and others may need help only once with emergency food supplies.

In a typical month, the food bank will serve nearly 5,000 families and 500 seniors through the Food Plus program. That program sets up needy clients to receive a monthly food amount, on a regular basis if necessary. Eligibility requirements apply. The Care Club allows eligible clients to purchase food valued at $50 to $60 for $15. More than 600 families are using this program.

Emergency food distribution serves more than 13,000 adults and 10,000 children, including about 750 infants. The emergency program is based solely on hunger. No time is wasted with determining eligibility. Often, clients are referred to additional agencies for further assistance.

In total, the food bank distributes about 100,000 pounds of food each month.

Ask said the expansion will cost the food bank about $800,000.

"We've contacted a contractor who has given us the preliminary figures and a floor plan," Ask said.

"We hope within 60 days to have enough money to get the project started," Ask said. "I'm going after every grant outfit there is."

Even so, Ask admits the project will need significant help from individuals and organizations throughout the Verde Valley. "Cash is what we need most for the expansion," he said. He said donations to the building fund are tax deductible because the food bank is a 501C non-profit corporation.

The property and buildings used by the food bank were originally donated by Ed and Ruth Cheneweth. Ask said the Cheneweths routinely purchase large amounts of food for the bank with money out of their own pockets. They also pay the utilities.

The Central Arizona Food Bank is officially sponsored by Friendship Missions International, Inc.

Persons interested in making donations to the food bank's building fund may contact the bank at 634-7447. Checks may be mailed or delivered to 654 N. Main St., Cottonwood.

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