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Food bank breaks record with 26,000+ in August
The Yuma Community Food Bank set another record with the amount of people served at its facilities topping 26,000 in August.
A total of 26,102 people were served through its Emergency Food Assistance program and its partner agencies in Yuma and La Paz counties, a 250 percent increase in the number of people served since January 2011.
YCFB president/CEO Mike Ivers said the previous record was 24,436 people in May. He attributes the increase to be consistent with the high local unemployment rate.
Ivers added that for a little perspective on how much numbers have grown in recent years, in 2006 YCFB was serving about 5,000 people per month, a number that has more than quintupled since then.
“We're expanding our outreach to serve more of the hungry in Yuma, but it really is a war.”
YCFB has had to use 12 people from Crossroads Mission to help meet the increasing need and will also be changing the hours of its Emergency Food Assistance program.
“Effective Monday, Sept. 17, customers may pick up a food box Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This change will add two hours to the regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule at a time when we see the bulk of our customers coming in.
“Shifting hours from the Tuesday and Thursday evenings will allow us to refocus resources from slow evening hours to much busier afternoon and Saturday hours.”
Ivers also noted that they have more than doubled the amount of backpacks given out to students, amounting to 850 weekly. The program provides backpacks for students in need from Somerton, Roll and Wellton that are filled with food and snacks for children and their families to eat over the weekend.
While 19 percent of Arizonans are “food insecure,” or not sure where their next meal is coming from, the figure is 27.1 percent in Yuma County. And while 29 percent of Arizona's kids are food insecure, in Yuma County it's 42.9 percent.
AJ Mosqueda, YCFB director of development, said she has been on staff for only a month and is already overwhelmed by the amount of people the facility serves on a daily basis.
“Having lived here my whole entire life, I obviously knew the impact the food bank made. However, until you're here every day and you see the lines and see the faces and the struggles people are having... it's overwhelming. They're everyday people, they're your neighbors.”
Beryl Lay, a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA and Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteering at the food bank, said she hopes the community, especially the young people in Yuma, will step up and help YCFB meet needs.
“I'm only 19 years old and I could be going to school full time, I could not be working if I really wanted to but I'd rather donate my time to a cause that is going to help my overall community rather than just sit at home and work just on homework.
“You can do more than that, you can give back to your community. School is extremely important but it is also important for you to get life experiences through the things that you do like volunteering.”
To volunteer to assist YCFB or to donate, call 343-1243.
With the click of a mouse, people can assist the Yuma Community Food Bank in winning up to $50,000 in an online contest.
As part of the Tom's of Maine 50 States for Good program, YCFB has been selected as the only finalist from Arizona to receive funds to support its efforts to promote healthy eating habits through access to fresh produce, reduce the amount of produce that is wasted and help feed the hungry in Yuma and La Paz counties.
“Personally, I think it's a big deal that we've been selected to represent the entire state of Arizona,” said Mike Ivers, president/CEO of YCFB.
By visiting www.Facebook.com/TomsofMaine, people can log into their Facebook account and vote once a day until Oct. 9. The organization with the most votes will receive $50,000, and five additional finalists will receive $20,000.
Ivers said YCFB would use the grant for produce gleaning, with the focus on citrus in the Yuma area because of its high Vitamin C content. “There is an untapped market for citrus in the Yuma area that will now be better harvested for the benefit for the hungry in Yuma if we can get enough votes for this grant.”
He noted that although Tom's of Maine is not releasing voting results until the end of the contest, he is confident that the Yuma community will pull through in helping them receive funds.
“We got 30,000 pounds of chicken because of the Yuma response in the Tyson contest, we only lost first place in that contest by 14 votes. And in the Walmart contest, we took 11th in the nation ... We're so grateful to everyone in Yuma for their incredible generosity to the food bank because they've been wonderful to us.”