Community Highlight: St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance

Nonprofit organizations that distribute food, collect money and deploy volunteers are extremely important to getting families the supplies they need. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever need assistance and support. Those nonprofit groups have had to adapt their organizational strategies and their volume of output in order to provide the relief that their communities have come to both expect and depend on.

St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance based in Phoenix, AZ is one such organization. Before the pandemic, they served between 500 and 600 people every day. Now they average twice that, and sometimes more. Every day they work extremely hard to keep up with such enormous demand.

Donation box at large community garden

Get Involved

As an essential service, St. Mary’s Food Bank has remained open throughout this crisis and plan on staying that way for as long as they have supplies. This pandemic naturally breeds uncertainty: No one has a clear-cut timeline of how long it will continue but endless amounts of people need help. To keep programs like this going, St. Mary’s Food Bank has opened itself up to any assistance that community members can afford.

With offices in Phoenix, Surprise and Flagstaff, they have multiple opportunities on their website on the “Get Involved” page.

  • Donate

Since the pandemic began, donations to this cause have already increased significantly. According to one client center manager, they’ve been getting contributions “by the truckloads,” which lets them continue providing baskets full of supplies to everyone who visits the food bank—despite serving approximately 1200 people every day, and often even more. The lines are extremely long and they need everything they can get just to keep up with demand.

Donations start at a minimum of $5. They also suggest larger figures but you can customize your donation to whatever you can afford. Along with the dollar amount, the suggested donations tell you how many meals it will provide for people in need.

  • Volunteer

They have many volunteer opportunities available for anyone hoping to get involved with these relief efforts. You can host food drives on behalf of St. Mary’s, start collection boxes, attend or help set up events, and raise additional donations for the cause.

The nonprofit also has advocacy opportunities available. They’re looking for people to help garner political support for the legislation that they back, which means calling state and local representatives and encouraging them to endorse programs like Child Nutrition Reauthorization, hunger relief and nutrition efforts, and tax policies that support food banks and similar organizations.

  • Company support

In many cases, big businesses have more opportunities and significantly more resources to assist those who are struggling. That’s why St. Mary’s Food Bank has a section for companies that want to help: Companies can donate larger amounts, host funds and food drives, and organize mass volunteering efforts. They can also run marketing campaigns, become a food industry partner and help coordinate off-site events to spread St. Mary’s advocacy efforts throughout Arizona at large.

Check out the Workplace Giving section of their website to learn more about how your company can get involved.

Happy volunteer family separating donations stuffs on a sunny day

Need Help?

Many people struggle to support their families because of this pandemic, and St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance aims to help relieve some of the pressure. Arizona residents will need to travel to an offices or food banks for assistance, so the website has multiple channels to direct people in need to locations near them.

The “Get Help” page tells people where to find food boxes, food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and similar locations by redirecting them to the Arizona Food Bank Network. This network connects people not just to St. Mary’s Food Bank but also other associated nonprofits in the state. People can also check their eligibility for government assistance programs like SNAP.

Additionally St. Mary’s Food Bank provides resources geared toward specific demographics. For example, they display phone numbers for the AZ Hunger Hotline which has resources for feeding minors. They also help seniors find out if they’re eligible for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. They have many additional resources available to provide information, benefits and redirection to other assistance services that help families and individuals in need—whether their situation is a direct result of COVID-19 or not.

Additionally, their Mobile Pantry brings to even more relief to Arizonans in need. The truck travels around the state and sets up open air markets where people can go to acquire produce and other fresh groceries. Recipients “shop” there for free. They don’t need to have any proof of residency or ID; the lack of a vetting system ensures that everyone can get food without worrying about identification or “proving” the depth of their need. The time and location of where the Mobile Pantry will be next is up on the food bank’s website, along with the schedules of other fundraising events hosted by St. Mary’s Food Bank.

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St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance takes their own precautions to protect volunteers and recipients from COVID-19. To supplement these efforts, AZ Food Bank Network also sent out a notice to their associated nonprofits with recommendations for quelling the virus. These include tips for managing the team, cleaning and sanitation techniques, and advice for assessing and handling anyone displaying or reporting symptoms.

In line with that goal, St. Mary’s Food Bank asks volunteers not to join the cause in person if they’ve recently visited an area with many confirmed cases of the virus; been within six feet of someone sick with COVID-19; or begun displaying symptoms such as a fever, shortness of breath, coughing and other respiratory issues, sore throat or other symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19.

If you can, get involved in supporting the Arizona community during these difficult times. Even if you can’t give your time, consider donating money or food to the drive. Every contribution helps, especially in light of the sheer volume of people relying on them for support every single day. St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and organizations like them work hard to do their part for their communities.

Donate now or visit their website to find out how you can help.

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