One in 10 Americans live in a food insecure household.
That’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated in its 2020 study, Household Food Security in the United States.
If these numbers hold true, in a city the size of Sierra Vista it could mean more than 4,000 residents risk being food insecure. The USDA figures say it’s higher for American households with children, at 14.8%. Food insecurity is widely defined as any situation that results in a person not being able to obtain food in a regular pattern because they lack resources or money.
That staggering potential, of having so many of their neighbors in need, is what motivated the Toyota Lexus Minority Owners Dealership Association to team with its member, Sierra Toyota, and The Salvation Army to stage their second “Spring Break Day of Service” on March 16.
The goal of Spring Break Day of Service and its volunteers is to put 250 food boxes in the hands of needy families. Spring break was chosen to help during a time when local families may have students who miss receiving a regular meal at school.
This is the second time Toyota Lexus and The Salvation Army have hosted the event. The first took place in 2020, but conditions during the pandemic prevented the event from taking place in 2021.
While the event was slated to begin handing out food boxes at 2 p.m at Sierra Toyota, the preparations for Lt. Heather Baze of the Salvation Army and her team of volunteers began hours earlier. Sierra Toyota President KC Han made a portion of his dealership’s showroom available for the event set-up, and it was filled with boxes and bags of donated food.
The Toyota Lexus Minority Owners Dealership Association helps its member dealerships with resources to improve their competitive advantage while encouraging a diverse and inclusive outreach to their communities. They achieve this through business development programs, community engagement and shared resources with other TLMODA dealerships. They help sponsor Spring Break Day of Service events nationally through their member dealers.
Throughout the morning about a dozen volunteers packed the boxes to be given away that afternoon.
“We couldn’t do this without our volunteers” Baze said. “We’re grateful to Toyota, TLMODA and KC, helping set this up for the community.”
The group of volunteers included a handful of Buena High students who dedicated their afternoon to help their community.
Baze and her husband, Lt. Ty Baze, are in charge of Sierra Vista’s Salvation Army. They are no strangers to helping and feeding the needy.
“We helped over 400,000 people in Arizona last year,” said Heather Blaze. The organization placed second on a list of “America’s Favorite Charities” by Chronicle of Philanthropy, a publication that covers charitable philanthropy news.
The Salvation Army operates more than 50 centers in Arizona, offering services for people in need, from food and shelter, emotional and spiritual support, to opportunities for underprivileged youth.
By 10 a.m. the showroom at Sierra Toyota is abuzz with several volunteers methodically opening boxes, removing their contents and arranging them on tables. Some stack empty cardboard boxes while others begin the process of filling each box. Once a food package is complete it’s placed on pallets, which are then rolled to the outdoor staging area.
Sierra Toyota has designated a portion of its lot as an impromptu drive-thru. As vehicles approach the handoff, all a driver needs to do is identify the number of families in the vehicle and a volunteer will load a food box into the trunk or back seat.
The recipients need not exit their vehicle during the transaction. While this was a “no touch” distribution event, drivers and passengers were vocal with their appreciations, with plenty of “Thank you!” and “Blessings” with clapping and thankful waves.
The pace is brisk. Volunteers manage vehicles while others load food boxes. The Salvation Army and Sierra Toyota volunteers were joined by a handful of students from the Buena High School Honor Society.
All kept the pace, and an hour into the event it appeared their goal of distributing 250 food boxes would likely be met. Any leftover boxes are distributed at future food distribution events.
The need for assistance is constant. For that, Baze said, “Our Corps Community Center is open daily and has a full pantry. When people come into the corps they can also pick up toiletry items.”
Items that in high need to the homeless population include shavers, deodorant, shampoo and toilet paper. The Corp’s pantry is open daily, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Families are able to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables and other perishable items that can’t be packed into food boxes.
The Salvation Army also teams with Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and The Emergency Food Assistance Program to run four distribution events each month Besides a distribution the first and second Tuesday of each month in Sierra Vista, the first Tuesday of each month they distribute in Hereford, and the third Friday of the month in Huachuca City. These are walk-up or drive-thru events.
For information about food distribution call 520-459-8411 or look on Facebook at @salvationarmysierravista.