I knew food insecurity was a serious issue in our communities, but communication with Becky Smyth, community outreach coordinator at the Legacy Foundation, made me realize how serious it really is.
With the federal government ending the food stamp program initiated by COVID, families have been suddenly stripped of much-needed food benefits.
Benefits ranging up to $250 per person ended this month with no replacement help.
Exacerbating the loss of food stamps has been the inflationary cost of food, which has proven to be devastating
Hunger is an issue all over Cochise County as Becky related to me through some examples.
Small communities like Bowie, San Simon, and Sunsites rely on their ingenuity and tenacity to provide food for their residents. They purchase most of their food from Walmart in Safford, approximately 76 miles away, and Safeway in Willcox, approximately 50 miles away.
In San Simon they have a small grocery store that the residents categorized as being “pricey.”
Larger communities like Sierra Vista, Willcox, Bisbee or Douglas have a bigger population base from which to draw food contributions, but without a coordinated collection program, they have a challenge collecting food just to meet the need.
Becky told me Cochise County’s food insecure rate was 11%, and that food lines are getting longer. People are hungry!
Mary Mueller, food distribution coordinator for the Salvation Army in Sierra Vista, confirmed the problem.
In March and April, for example, she reported that the Sierra Vista Salvation Army distributed 3,848 boxes of food to needy individuals.
It’s one thing to talk about an issue, and it’s something else to do something about it.
Fortunately, The Salvation Army, the Legacy Foundation and St. Vincent de Paul volunteers are “doers,” not just “talkers.”
Becky explained how the upcoming county food drive got started.
“Back in November, the Legacy Foundation held an appreciation luncheon for food resources across the county; pantries food banks, gardens and senior meal programs. One intended consequence was to start the food resources networking with each other.
“In January, we invited them to a networking workshop called Strategic Doing. In February we started monthly Zoom calls. In March the concept of the countywide food drive was launched.”
Becky said the idea is for each community to keep the needed food it collects and share the excess.
The Cochise County Food Network is a collaboration of food pantries across Cochise County working together to feed those in need. Lines for food are getting longer, the needs are greater and the challenges are real. Pantries are run by dedicated volunteers and are dependent on donations
In Sierra Vista, the Salvation Army will serve as a hub for all collections. It will distribute food to other communities as needed, including ground beef if the local pantry does not have large enough refrigeration.
The county food drive will take place between June 18-25, and food collection sites are now being sought.
Some businesses like Sierra Toyota have already volunteered to participate.
You can help insure the success of the food drive in two ways.
First of all, you can help establish food collection sites. They can be businesses, organizations or churches. Then, you can solicit food donations as well as donating food yourself.
Needed food items include canned goods, boxed goods, and dry goods such as pasta, dry beans or rice. Donations should be non-perishables and foodstuffs that are not expired.
Let’s make Cochise County healthier. End hunger, support the countywide food drive!