St. Mary’s Food Bank Shares Alarming Rise in Families Seeking Food in Arizona

Jerry Brown, director of public relations for St. Mary’s Food Bank, told The Arizona Sun Times that the number of families seeking food in Arizona has risen in recent months.

“To give you an example at St. Mary’s Food Bank,” Brown said Friday. “We’re still getting the final numbers in for August, but we’re going to come close to 150,000 families served just in the month of August. Something we didn’t do during the pandemic. The height of the pandemic. That’s not something we did during normal holiday years when we hand out a lot of turkeys. We do 18,000 turkeys for families around the holidays. Even those months didn’t result in 150,000 touches with families.”

Brown further stated that the food bank is seeing a 50 to 60 percent increase in families helped over the last year at their two main facilities in Phoenix and Surprise. Furthermore, the growth may not have reached its peak as inflation continues to pressure families.

“We’ve certainly seen an uptake that has not reached its peak yet,” Brown said. “We normally see an increase in the amount of families in the summertime anyway, but not anything like this.”

Furthermore, Brown also shared an outlook on food supply in Arizona and that while things have gotten better from the effects of COVID, it was difficult to get there.

“As far as the food bank is concerned, we are probably in a better situation now than we were six months ago,” Brown said. “It’s still difficult to get things, but it was more difficult to get things in the spring and early summer. Things are starting to loosen up now, availability is starting to improve a little bit. But still, it’s much more expensive because of inflation. The food bank is doing purchasing; we’re getting less food donations now.”

Another bit of alarming news from Brown is that St. Mary’s is getting an increase in people who have either not used the food bank in over a year or have never had to rely on one.

According to the Arizona Food Bank Network, one in nine Arizonans face food insecurity, which amounts to roughly 798,790 people. Food insecurity means that at least one or all household members have limited access to healthy, safe, nutritious foods. Of the affected population, 269,610 are children, with seniors and people living in rural areas also being at risk.

In response to a looming global food supply crisis, Arizona Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) sent a letter to two U.S. Departments, seeking answers on how they are trying to avoid this disaster. Both letters highlight data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which shows that food prices are up 10.9 percent compared to July 2021.

He questioned Secretary Debra Haaland of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) about how the department will distribute water from the Colorado River to producers who need it and if it will provide relief to domestic producers struggling with increased prices.

To Secretary Tom Vilsack of the USDA, Biggs questioned what steps are being taken to increase grain production within the U.S. and what is being done to get fertilizer in the hands of domestic producers.

He requested both parties respond by September 15th.

“It is imperative to increase and protect domestic grain and fertilizer production in our country—essential commodities that serve as the foundation for a robust food supply,” Biggs said.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “St. Mary’s Food Bank” by First Food Bank.




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