As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect everyday life in so many ways, it has forced St. Mary’s Food Bank to respond in a way it has never before.
Over the months of March April and May, St. Mary’s distributed nearly 30 million pounds of food throughout most of the state. In April alone, we distributed more than 10 million pounds of food – a first in our 53-year history. And we accomplished this feat using every possible tool at our disposal.
Pallets of pantry item food boxes plus meats, fruits and vegetables went to our 600+ agency partners. We also held no-contact drive through mobile pantries – more than 70 a month – with dozens and sometimes hundreds of waiting cars snaking through parking lots and nearby streets at the beginning of each one.
More than 120,000 pounds of food was distributed to the heavily-impacted Navajo Nation in one dizzying, four-hour distribution with lines of those in need stretching as long as five miles. We also coordinated helicopter drops of pallets of food to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to members of the Havasupai Nation in great need of help.
You name it. We tried it. And all the lines were fed.
We couldn’t have done it without our incredible employees, our dedicated and selfless volunteers on the ground, the much-needed and appreciated assistance of the Arizona National Guard … and YOU! Whenever St. Mary’s asks Arizona to open their hearts to those we serve, you meet that need with an enthusiasm and generosity that warms our hearts as it fills empty plates.
When the normal day of 600 families a day soared to 1,500 A DAY almost overnight at JUST ONE Of our partner agency sites, we wondered if this would be the “new normal” moving forward. Thankfully in June, with some folks returning to work and seeing lives that we turned upside down beginning to stabilize, we have seen the number of clients in June recede to a more manageable level. Still higher, but less frantic.
What we are seeing now is very interesting. Three out of every four families we have helped in June were receiving emergency food for the first time. Sadly, some of those now in need were donors to St. Mary’s Food Bank just a few months ago. These are not families making repeat visits or “double dipping” for extra food. These are people who know how to get to St. Mary’s because they were helping us build the same food boxes they now suddenly need. That’s how quickly someone’s life can change. That’s how quickly even the basic necessities of life can suddenly move out of reach.
Sadly, the number of people needing help may well rise again quickly. The PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) of an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits is set to expire the end of July. The outbreak of new COVID cases in Arizona has been the subject national attention as a “hotspot” along with Florida and Texas, threatening rollbacks or even more strict measures that will put more people back out of work. That means thousands of additional families again turning to St. Mary’s for help.
But we will meet the challenges ahead as we have always done. To give you a peek at what we can do, I invite you to watch the video below of our most recent and largest mobile distribution in Tuba City on the Navajo Nation. With your help and support St. Mary’s was able to distribute 125,000 pounds of food in 4 hours! It took five semi-trucks of food, an army of volunteers, staff, and the community coming together to pull off a no-contact distribution system to keep everyone safe.
Thank you, again, and I welcome your feedback to anything I have shared or what you see in the video. We appreciate you so much! Thank you for helping us feed the hungry in Arizona.