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AZ Food Banks Facing Lean Summer

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April 29, 2010

PHOENIX - Arizona's food banks are struggling to serve a record number of families seeking emergency food boxes. Despite distributing more than 1.1 million pounds of food every month, only 62 percent of the need is being met, according to an estimate from the Association of Arizona Food Banks.

Ginny Hildebrand, the Association's executive director, says more challenges are ahead because summer traditionally is a slower time for donations and an increased time of need with kids out of school.

"While some children are going to be fed at their summer food program at their school or a local nonprofit, many children are not. Arizona ranks dead last in the United States for providing food through the summer food program. Some of the winter visitors who contribute either their time, their money or their food, are not here in the summer. Some people are off doing other things with their families."

Food banks say demand for emergency assistance might increase further because 10,000 Arizona families are being cut from the state's temporary cash assistance program July 1. Hildebrand expects the tough times to last another 18 to 24 months, barring an unexpected drop in the state's jobless rate.

Hildebrand admits she's grateful for the many people who donate to food banks around the holidays, but says contributions are also vital during the rest of the year.

A further complication is a threat to state funding for the trucks that haul food from distribution centers to local food banks. That money's future hangs on the promise of a temporary one-cent sales tax, going to the voters May 18, she says.

"Without those funds, it will be very difficult to continue the level of distribution, the schedules, et cetera, that make sure that food is getting to every community in Arizona."

The Association of Arizona Food Banks represents regional food distribution centers in metro Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and Yuma.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ