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Arizona Food Banks Chief Stepping Down After Long Career

PHOTO: The head of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, Ginny Hildebrand, is retiring after a quarter century of guiding the growth of the statewide food banking network. CREDIT: AAFB.
PHOTO: The head of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, Ginny Hildebrand, is retiring after a quarter century of guiding the growth of the statewide food banking network. CREDIT: AAFB.
May 31, 2013

PHOENIX – The head of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, Ginny Hildebrand, is stepping down after guiding development of a statewide food banking network that "kept hunger at bay" during the Great Recession.

Hildebrand says the non-profit organization has grown to include nearly 1,600 food pantries and agencies.

"I look back to 1985, when I started, and we were serving just about a million pounds of food between all the food banks in Arizona,” she recalls. “This last year it was 124 million."

Hildebrand is proud that Arizona food banks provide more food, including fresh produce, per person than almost any other state in the country.

Despite the recession and the state's huge population growth, she says food banks are helping about one million Arizonans a year with emergency and supplemental food boxes.

Hildebrand says food banks are a small but important link in the steps people take to recover from a job loss and other emergencies. She says helping those folks helped to motivate her.

"I think some of the stories that I hear, of people coming back and saying, ‘I needed a food box at one time,’” she says. “’And the food banks were there. And I got good food and I was able to feed my family at a time that I couldn't do it myself. Without it, I wouldn't be here today.’”

As she leaves the food bank association, Hildebrand is most concerned about cuts in the federal Food Stamp program being considered by Congress, both immediate and longer term.

She says food banks and other Arizona charities are already stretched to the breaking point, and less nutrition assistance from food stamps puts an additional burden on food banks.

"The food banks are going to give a three day supply of food,” she says. “It's a small infusion of assistance. But for food stamps, that benefit lasts for some people anywhere from two to three weeks in the month. "

One in five Arizonans currently struggle with food insecurity, living at or below the federal poverty level. Arizona's food banks are supported by donations of food, cash and volunteer time.



Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ