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Food bank continues to fight 'war on hunger'
Volunteers greatly needed
Each year, Yuma-area residents who find it difficult to put food on their tables make about 111,000 visits to the Yuma Community Food Bank, which was founded in 1978 by a group of dedicated volunteers to feed hungry children in Yuma County.
The residents YCFB now serves are largely classified as the “working poor,” which includes single moms and dads, two-parent working families and the elderly on fixed incomes. These represent the population that are working at above minimum wage jobs and still struggling to feed themselves, their children and their families.
“We are helping every day people in Yuma and La Paz Counties,” said Mike Ivers, president and CEO of YCFB, who added the organization serves “an area of over 10,000 square miles. We help veterans, grandparents, seniors, singles, children and the disabled.”
An individual or family is able to visit the food bank once a month where they receive “a combination of government commodities, produce, donated products and purchased products,” Ivers said.
The items each family receives represent the basic food groups and are designed to supplement an individual or family with enough food to last up to four days.
“It is intended to supplement their food, not to be their only source,” Ivers noted. “We are a safety net, not an entitlement.”
YCFB works with 25 partner agencies and 13 food distribution centers to relieve hunger, increase self-reliance and improve the quality of life for children and families throughout southwestern Arizona.
“We are in a war on hunger,” Ivers said. “It is a huge battle. We are on the front lines here in Yuma. At times we have the No. 1 unemployment rate in the United States. We've got to help each other here, and I have really seen that happen. We have tremendous generosity here. Lots of people want to help, but we need even more.”
YCFB is in great need of volunteers, and Ivers encourages businesses, service organizations and students to take turns volunteering at the main distribution center, 2404 E 24th St., from 1 to 2 p.m. each day through Nov. 30.
“We rely on volunteers,” he said. “They are tremendous. We still have a lot they can do to help out. They can help package food baskets, register people, and do all sorts of produce repackaging.”
Volunteers are also needed to staff YCFB booths at several upcoming events including the Lettuce Days Festival and the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Airshow.
Yuma-area residents can also help out by donating food or hosting food drives for YCFB. The biggest demand continues to be for fresh meat and other protein items, as well as other perishable items such as dairy and eggs.
Residents can also provide monetary donations to YCFB.
“For one dollar, you can purchase nine meals,” Ivers said.
In addition to providing food to adults at their distribution centers, YCFB also provides food insecure children in rural Yuma County with kid friendly nourishment they can take home with them each weekend as part of the “Backpack Program.”
“The food is child friendly, meaning a child who is perhaps unsupervised at home can prepare something on their own,” said AJ Mosqueda, YCFB Director of Development.
“We do have a lot of circumstances where some kids sometimes don't have electricity because of economic circumstances, so these items are shelf stable, and something that is going to be appetizing to a child, but obviously nutritious.”
That includes cereal, canned fruit with a pop open top, granola bars, protein bars and Gatorade – items even young children will be able to open even when home alone.
“Unfortunately that does happen,” Mosqueda said. “They can grab something out of that backpack and eat while they are at home on the weekends.”
Through the Backpack Program, about 800 underprivileged children in San Luis, Somerton, Wellton, Dateland and Roll receive the backpacks each week.
“Unfortunately the need is more than we are able to serve at this time,” Mosqueda said. We really would like to expand that further in the rural parts of Yuma and La Paz Counties, but also right here in our back yard in the city of Yuma.”
To that end, YCFB is currently working with the city of Yuma to get a Community Development Block Grant in order to provide the Backpack Program to students at Pecan Grove, Carver and Roosevelt elementary schools, as well as at 4th Avenue Jr. High., beginning next semester. Those schools have been identified as having the greatest need.
For more information about how to donate to YCFB or to volunteer, log on to http://yumafoodbank.org/ or call 343-1243.