Local Opinion: Food banks are crucial to survival during the COVID-19 epidemic
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Local Opinion: Food banks are crucial to survival during the COVID-19 epidemic

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

Food banks are under enormous pressure as they are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Tucson, daily client intake has now rapidly increased; demand is up 121% and serving (directly and indirectly) an estimated 4,000 people each day.

The CFB annually serves approximately 200,000 individuals across five counties: Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima and Santa Cruz, with five resource centers in Tucson, Marana, Green Valley, Amado and Nogales providing emergency food and other resources. The CFB addresses hunger relief in multiple ways: it provides emergency food boxes, operates the Las Milpitas Community Farm, where people can grow fresh vegetables and fruits for free, supports local growers by helping sell their produce in the community at farmer’s markets and operates the Caridad Community Kitchen, which prepares grab-and-go meals.

Feeding America, the nation’s main hunger-relief organization, declared an estimated $1.4 billion in additional resources is required throughout the next six months to offer enough food for individuals confronted with hunger — a 30% surge to the standard six-month operating costs of the 200-member food bank national network including 60,000 pantries and meal programs.

In 2019, the Feeding America Network distributed 3.6 billion meals nationwide; however, this need has risen exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Economic Security has recently seen a 42% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applicants. This is the new normal for food banks across the country as food insecurity is a reality for millions of Americans who have been laid off or unable to fulfill their grocery list at the store.

As people living in the United States continue to be unemployed, food banks are an essential part of emergency relief, as they serve as survival mechanisms for millions of Americans.

Like CFB, food banks across the nation are now serving community members through a drive-thru model. CFB in Tucson is open and serving community members Tuesday through Friday, 7–10 a.m.

For more information, CFB has a regularly updated online map that includes emergency food and free community meal sites across our service area (communityfoodbank.org/Get-Help/Find-Food). In addition, for school-aged children (under 18), This is Tucson published a huge school meal site list for free grab-and-go meals across Tucson School Districts.

To support Arizona Food Banks, Gov. Doug Ducey called the Arizona National Guard into action. Since Thursday, March 26, roughly 60 guard members have supported daily ground-level efforts in Tucson, supporting drive-through distribution and filling food boxes for the two main federal food programs, The Emergency Food Assistance Program and Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The stress and emotional toll are enormous and we are taking creative steps to meet our family food needs. We are navigating and stacking benefits for the first time, and for some a second, third or fourth time. Government assistance programs such as TEFAP, SNAP, unemployment, cash assistance and WIC are crucial to help us stay afloat during these unprecedented times.

Food Banks are in need of your backing. Americans are encouraged to support your local food bank specifically through monetary donations to support community food relief efforts. You can directly donate to: communityfoodbank.org. or visit feedingamerica.org to locate your local food bank.

Samantha Turner serves her community by working for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona as the administrative coordinator to the CEO and chief programs officer. She is also a graduate student at the University of Arizona in the School of Geography and Development in the Master’s in Development program.

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