/ Modified jun 12, 2023 10:27 p.m.

Cochise County holds county-wide food drive

The food drive will run from June 18-25

Mannis 1 Board President of the Food Bank of Tombstone Kalman Mannis said that the number of people coming to the food bank have doubled in the last year. May 30, 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

Food banks and pantries are joining forces to address food insecurity in Cochise County with a county-wide food drive starting on June 18 and running through June 25.

Managers and directors of food banks and pantries around the county say that the number of people coming for food has doubled in the last year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago. High food prices are also contributing to the need.

“Especially with the food prices going through the roof … We’ve had to spend a lot more money than we’d normally would to keep food in our pantries because people that never used to get food anymore since the pandemic, have been coming and getting food boxes a whole lot more often than they were before,” said Captain Heather Baze, the core officer of the Sierra Vista branch of the Salvation Army. “And people who were in the higher bracket are now getting food boxes that weren’t before … Prior to COVID, we had about 60-70 people get our community meal, and now we’re about 115-150 per day.”

It’s a trend that’s county-wide. Director of Willcox Community Food Pantry Nell Worden said that the number of people coming through her door has also increased within the last year.

“Our people that are coming through our line has doubled in the last year — maybe year-and-a-half,” said Worden. “And it’s continuing to go up every single month. And we also had to cut our budget in half because our donations were way down… We’ve had to cut down the amount of food that we give to people because we want the people who are in the end of the line to at least get something … So sometimes I get kinda this knot in my stomach, am I able to help all these people?”

The average median household income in Cochise County is $55,077 according to the U.S. Census, and a little more than 17% of the county lives in poverty. For cities like Douglas, the percentage of poverty is higher at nearly 25%.

Nancie Ames, President of St. Vincent de Paul Council in Douglas also raised concern with school being out “And less children are in school, they are not going to be getting a breakfast or lunch. So, we’re anticipating to be seeing an even larger increase of people coming, especially for lunches with us.”

The effects of this increase in need are exacerbated in communities like Tombstone, where there is no local grocery store. Board President of the Food Bank of Tombstone Kalman Mannis said their food bank is the only local food supplier for Tombstone residents. He said the number of people coming for food has doubled within the last year.

Mannis 3 Kalman Mannis, the Board President of the Food Bank of Tombstone, said that the food bank is looking for food that is shelf-stable. May 30, 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

“And we are continuing to see the numbers climb,” said Mannis. “We’re open multiple days a week and we’re seeing 40-60 people a day …Things that are shelf-stable are what we really need. Everything from canned meats to canned fruits and vegetables, dried pastas and rices.”

Tombstone Food Bank 1 A basket list of what visitors of the Food Bank of Tombstone can receive. May 30, 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

Becky Smyth, the Grants Manager of Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona, said that each community food bank will be seeking donations of non-perishable food items for a week.

“Each community is looking for community partners, local organizations in Tombstone, Benson, Willcox, and Douglas, that will partner with them to help them get the word out in the community and to sponsor a collection box at their organization,” Smyth said. “There’ll be a flyer that has donation locations for each community and points of contact for each community as well.”

While Ames said that it won’t be enough to solve the food insecurity issue in the county, it’s the first of many steps in that direction.

“We know that this is not a one-time deal,” said Ames. “This is not going to save us, and it’s not going to help us feed everybody. But it’s the first step in building a program, potentially, that can be a long-term solution to get us closer to where we want to be in making sure that everybody has access to food.”

For more information on where to donate, visit the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona’s website.

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