Friday, July 3, 2009

Help bring independence from hunger

(H/T Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board. Bravo indeed!)

For many Tucsonans, the Fourth of July is a time for barbecues, hanging out with friends and watching fireworks. We hope you will join us in expanding the celebrations to include the growing number of folks in our area who rely on the Community Food Bank by turning your gathering into a fun food drive.

The Community Food Bank is serving more people and distributing more food throughout the five counties it serves in Southern Arizona, according to spokesman Jack Parris. In May, the food bank distributed 17,000 emergency food boxes, which supplies enough food to stretch for four to five meals, he said.

An apples-to-apples comparison with last year is difficult because a year ago clients could receive two emergency food boxes per month, but shortages and increased demand forced the food bank to cut that back to one box per month, he said.

The Community Food Bank relies on non-perishable food such as peanut butter and canned meats, vegetables, tomato products and soups. The agency also accepts monetary donations and, because of buying power, can turn every $1 donated into $9 of distributed food.

"We're seeing new people. The need continues to rise with the economy the way it is," Parris told us Thursday. "We continue to need the basic items that we always have had for food drives."

As the economy continues to struggle and unemployment increases, people who've never needed assistance are showing up asking for help to put food on the table. The Community Food Bank distributed 16.5 million pounds of food between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008, Parris said. Between July 1, 2008, and May 31 the food bank gave out more than 20 million pounds of food, and officials expect when the June figures are in the total will hit 22 million pounds for the last fiscal year.

The unemployment rate in the Tucson metro area, which encompasses all of Pima County, was 7.7 percent in May, an increase of six-tenths of a percentage point over April. As a state, Arizona lost more than 21,000 jobs in May and had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, according to a story by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.

U.S. Labor Department figures released Thursday reveal that employers cut 467,000 jobs nationwide in June, which bumped the national unemployment rate to 9.5 percent, The New York Times reported. That translates into 14.7 million who were unemployed in June.

Turning a party into a food drive isn't difficult — we suspect that Tucsonans, when asked directly, will be glad to help. The Community Food Bank comes to mind more readily during the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, but we hope people will begin associate Independence Day with donating food, too.

"People remember to feed the hungry during the holidays, but summertime is when our donations are down," Parris said. "This is the low point for us for donations."
The Community Food Bank fulfills a vital need, and we hope you'll take the challenge and make Independence Day mean independence from hunger for many in our community.

You can help: The Community Food Bank serves five counties in Southern Arizona and relies on donations of nonperishable goods and money to feed more than 220,000 people annually. Staples such as peanut butter, canned meats, vegetables, soups and tomato products are always needed. For help or to donate, call (520) 622-0525 or go online to

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