February 2013

UFB honored at Mesa Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

By Erika Clemens

On January 19th, United Food Bank was honored at the prestigious Mesa Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. Each year a non-profit is selected for its service to the community, specifically for working to solve a societal issue in the community, providing a service to strengthen it, uniting its residents, and for improving and positively  transforming the lives of its members.

CEO Bob Evans & Chairman Bill Warren with the award.

CEO Bob Evans & Chairman Bill Warren with the award.

Mr. Bill Warren, chairman of the United Food Bank Board of Directors, accepted this award on behalf of our organization. He noted that the theme of the celebration mirrors the mission of the food bank, working together as one group and “helping one another so that nobody is hungry.” Mr. Warren said that the award highlights that that we are “taking care of those in need, in a manner that is appreciated” and that this is achieved in part to our dedicated support staff and volunteers. While the award shows that our organization has grown from the tremendous support of our community, Mr. Warren also attributes our growth to another factor. “Unfortunately, the need continues to grow, which has forced us to grow correspondingly,” he said.

Currently United Food Bank distributes 45,200 meals per day on average to Eastern Arizonans in need, and this number continues to rise every year. Until hunger ceases to exist in our community, we must work together and struggle together, as Dr. King urged in his infamous speech, and feed those in need.

Food Distribution: Witnessing Gratitude

mobile pantry
By Erika Clemens

A pack of English Muffins seems insignificant to most of us while grocery shopping, but to the working poor it is a prized commodity. While picking out bread items at a food distribution United Food Bank held in Florence, a woman lit up with excitement at the sight of some Thomasville English Muffins. “These are usually too expensive at the store,” she said as she put a pack in her food box. Many of us can spend the two or three dollars that muffins cost without a second thought, but others cannot. Instead they have to go without.That woman was so thankful for this simple item that brought so much joy to her day.

This sense of gratitude was a common theme throughout the remainder of our food distribribution in Florence. As individuals and families went down the line, they were overjoyed to see items like Tyson chicken, Gatorade, rye bread, brownies, and fresh produce. Family members took turns picking out these food items that they ordinarily could not afford. At each station there were individuals who thanked those of us from United Food Bank, our donors, and our volunteers for bringing them this food. “God Bless you all,” one woman said. Another told us that this was a wonderful thing we were doing.

Although these people were extremely thankful for the food they were receiving, the majority of them were also mindful about what would be left for others. At each station there were those who chose not to take all that was being offered to them. At the bread station, many elderly individuals and couples only took two bread items instead of the four available to them. “Leave it for a big family that needs it,” one man said. Witnessing this incredible selflessness was extremely humbling for those of us from the food bank.

The food that we are able to provide to these people, thanks to your tremendous generosity, truly makes a difference in their lives. Many of these individuals are considered part of the working poor; those that have jobs but still fall below the poverty line. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2008, 19 million people lived in working-poor families. Often times these families must choose between paying for food or their utilities. Among those receiving emergency assistance from our network, fifty percent of them are faced with this difficult decision. In Florence alone, where we held our mobile food distribution, 12.1 percent of the town lives below the poverty line. Before we even started handing out food during our distribution, the line of people stretched around the corner from where we were set up. While the number of people requiring food assistance may seem daunting, it is a need that we must continue to meet. Each meal that we provide instills a sense of hope, as evident by the overwhelming sense of gratitude we encountered in Florence. Everyday we unite and work together, we get closer to ending hunger in Arizona.

U.S. Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts, 2013 http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/04/0423760.html

U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2009 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (POV 10)

Thank You

By Jayson Matthews 

As we start the month of February, everyone at the United Food Bank is just now starting to catch their breaths from a busy end-of-year. We are so preoccupied in November and December, that we do not even celebrate our holiday party until January. Even then, we call it, “We Survived The Holidays Party.”

Yet, we enjoy that time of year. There is something spectacular about a busy food bank during the holiday season. The warehouse becomes a hive of activity. One can see food coming in and orders going out to agencies; pick-up trucks dropping off food from a church service; new people who decided to host a food drive this season “because it was the right thing to do”; businesses who apologize that they were not able to do more (even though they filled six boxes); and families who make it a tradition to sort food on Christmas Eve. The food bank becomes a metaphor for collective action; all of us, doing our part, to make a meaningful impact in one area. 

We are grateful for all of these special moments, as they demonstrate that we can accomplish great things when we work together. Together, we helped a lot of people in 2012. Here are just a few highlights:

  • We provided 19,801,662 pounds of food to over 280 agencies, sites, senior centers, after-school programs, homeless shelters, neighborhood distribution sites, and other food banks.
  • We provided the food for nearly 45,200 meals for the hungry every day in 2012.
  • 1,855 volunteers gave us 46,200 hours to help our Arizonans in need. That equates to $910,602 (per the Independent Sector’s Arizona Rate of $19.71 per hour) of service!

These accomplishments are impressive, but we know that there are still those who go to bed hungry in Arizona. We thank you for all of your support in 2012 and hope that you will stand united with us in 2013 to end hunger in Arizona!