The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is expected to receive an additional 5 million pounds of food from the federal government through March as a result of tariff disputes between the United States and its trading partners, the head of the local agency said.
“This is 60 percent more in food from the federal government than we receive in one year,” said Michael McDonald, president and chief executive officer of the community food bank.
Families in need “will benefit from this trade war. I see that as the silver lining, and good food will not go to waste,” McDonald said Thursday.
He said the food that was intended to go overseas is now too expensive for foreign markets because of the tariff disputes.
The Trump administration announced in the summer that it would bail out American farmers with up to $12 billion in programs, including up to $1.2 billion to purchase food that it would then distribute through emergency food assistance programs, said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
A downside the food bank is facing, said McDonald, is a $600,000 cost to store and distribute the additional foods. The money will pay to rent refrigerated trucks and cooling space, and hire about a dozen temporary full-time drivers and warehouse employees for nine months.
“We did not get extra funding to get the food where it needs to go. We are asking the public for donations and charitable contributions,” McDonald said. He said the food bank’s annual budget is $17 million, of which $3 million is from the government.
This week the local food bank received four tractor-trailer loads of about 120,000 pounds of food. The food includes pork, chicken, apples, cheese, walnuts and blueberries. Milk may also be delivered.
The food bank serves 27,000 households that qualify for emergency food boxes and food bags.
“This type of food we normally don’t get from the government,” McDonald said. “Most of our food donations come from grocery stores, local farmers and through community food drives,” he said.
Last year, the food bank distributed 70 million pounds of food, up from 52 million pounds in 2016.
“The economy is still not good for many struggling working families. Some people have two or three jobs,” McDonald said.
The food bank distributes food for people in need in Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham and Greenlee counties. The food is taken to eight facilities and to the pantries of agencies that partner with the food bank to distribute food.
McDonald said the food is perishable and needs to be stored at the proper temperature and distributed to families quickly. The agency is working with its partners to get the food to clients.
He said the food bank continues to need the community’s support during the upcoming holiday food drives to feed families.