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AZ Food Banks: Demand Remains at Record Levels

January 18, 2011

PHOENIX - Demand for emergency food rose 27 percent last year at Arizona's food banks. Applications for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps, were up 33 percent. And Ginny Hildebrand, president of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, says the outlook for 2011 is no better.

"We anticipate unless the economy and the jobs availability kick in very quickly, we expect to be at this record level of need for at least another year."

The good news, says Hildebrand, is that Arizonans continued their generous donations of food, money and volunteer labor over the holiday season. She says with bonus federal commodities and stimulus dollars, 84 percent of eligible Arizonans are now receiving food assistance.

Hildebrand is hoping Arizona's private homeowners come through with big donations of citrus over the next few weeks.

"This is a real important time of the year for us - January, February, March - critical times for harvesting that citrus in residential areas, that otherwise might just hang on the tree and feed the rodents."

Hildebrand says one of the state's major food banks was serving five times as many families last month as it had a year earlier – and somehow, everyone who asked for assistance was helped.

"We may not have as much as they need, but we have not turned them away. We have had something to give them to get them just a little further down the road; and hopefully, with information about eligibility for other programs."

The U.S. Census Bureau says 21 percent of Arizonans live in poverty, compared to a national rate of 14 percent. Hildebrand says more than one million Arizonans now need extra food assistance.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ