PHOENIX – At one point Tuesday, cars came through at a rate of one every minute, six lanes across, to get boxes and bags of turkeys, potatoes and canned food from St. Mary’s Food Bank.
Members of the National Guard and volunteers in neon-orange vests, all wearing masks or bandanas, loaded up one car trunk after another to help hundreds from going hungry as the holidays approach.
“Number 6!” “Number Four!” shouted the volunteers as uniformed members of the guard and others brought the boxes to cars and trunks. People also could walk up to get goods, but drive-thru dominated the operation Tuesday.
Hunger has soared in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cratered the economy, snatched away jobs and removed the assurance that there always will be food on the table. To alleviate the suffering, local governments and nonprofit organizations are providing federal dollars.
A spokesperson for St. Mary’s, the state’s largest food bank, said it set a record – distributing an average of 10 million pounds of food a month since the pandemic hit in March. That’s the most the organization has distributed since it opened its doors more than a half-century ago.
Arizona has given food banks $1.6 million, with $600,000 of that going to St. Mary’s, which also has served the Navajo Nation.
Phoenix has put CARES Act dollars, federal money targeted for pandemic relief, to work by contracting with the Local First Arizona Foundation, a community and economic development organization. The foundation has recruited local restaurants, farmers and other businesses to help prepare and deliver meals.