Prescott Valley Tribune
By Cheryl Hartz
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Three weeks ago, Yavapai Food Bank Director Ann Wilson prayed for help to fill the empty shelves. The media and community responded and the food bank didn’t have to turn away hungry people.
But this past week, her prayers were answered in an even bigger way.
“As soon as we were alerted there was another food bank in trouble, we set a plan in motion,” said Jerry Brown, community relationship specialist for St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix.
St. Mary’s, the world’s first and largest food bank, committed to sending a 48-foot tractor trailer load of food once a week. That translates to about 30 pallets of food weekly, including produce, non-perishables, breads and pastries, according to Brown.
“We’ll start with this and see if that gets it done,” Brown said.
John van Hengel founded St. Mary’s Food Bank in 1967. While collecting donations for the St. Vincent de Paul community dining room, he learned about the food grocery stores threw away if the packages were damaged or near expiration dates. He persuaded store managers to donate this unsellable but still edible food to St. Vincent de Paul. When the dining room received more food than it could use, the food bank concept emerged. Van Hengel approached St. Mary’s Basilica as a central location.
The first year, some 250,000 pounds of food went to 36 local agencies. In the past year, St. Mary’s distributed 67.7 million pounds in 13 of Arizona’s 15 counties. It merged with Westside Food Bank in 2005, and with its vision to spread further into northern Arizona, St. Mary’s recently opened a new location in Flagstaff at what used to be the Care and Share, Brown said.
The weekly truckloads to YFB will come from Flagstaff, he said, and should “take care of needs for two to three days” each time.
YFB Director Ann Wilson was thrilled to get the news. Although the community responded strongly to her plea, the need is never-ending, as several other area banks depend upon YFB for their food supplies.
“We need food to continue to come in,” Wilson said. “These are the hardest months, at least through December, when holiday drives are in force. But the public’s response has been tremendous. (In addition to local help) I can’t believe how many checks we got in from the Phoenix area.”
The first truck arrives this morning.
“St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance is more than happy to help out a sister food bank,” Brown said.
For more information on Yavapai Food Bank, call 928-775-5255. To learn more about St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliahttp://www.firstfoodbank.org or call 602-352-3640.