The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona has dealt with their fair share of logistical challenges while being surprised by generous donations during the past six months of the pandemic.
But as the Arizona National Guard continues to withdraw volunteer support for the service, the food bank is calling for volunteers to help keep up with the demand for food services in Southern Arizona. Community food bank CEO Michael McDonald said the “unprecedented need” is more than double this year as compared to previous years.
“We are currently working through a shortage of volunteers as the National Guard goes away. That’s why we’re trying to rebuild our voluntary workforce at the moment,” McDonald said. “We’re in need of people who can work outside and work alongside us to keep up with the volume of need.”
The CEO said he hopes volunteer relief comes quick as his current volunteer staff is suffering from burnout during our hotter-than-average summer. Volunteer help isn’t just limited to Pima County, said McDonald. The food bank serves five counties and 400 various agencies within the state.
“I think the endurance is just wearing on staff and volunteers because of the heat,” McDonald said. “I hope we can get some folks who feel like they can stay safe, healthy and hydrated for a four-hour shift. It’s definitely an endurance test for some people.”
McDonald is “thankful” the community food bank has been able to maintain a good supply of food throughout the pandemic to help those in need while economic uncertainty looms, he said.
“Thankfully we’ve had a good supply of food early on. We were worried about our food supply in the beginning,” Mc Donald said. “We were able to figure out ways to have long lead times because getting food is more expensive now that prices are going up.”
During the early days of the pandemic, the community food bank was seeing up to four times as many new users than previous years, according to McDonald. While that number has leveled off at double what the food bank would typically see in a given year, McDonald said he expects the numbers to dramatically rise in the upcoming weeks as federal unemployment assistance dries up and state unemployment readjusts back to $240 per week.
“If people don’t get back to work as federal and state benefits decline we know our demand will continue to grow,” McDonald said. “It’s going to be back as if we were at the beginning of the pandemic.”
Community generosity has more than “pleasantly surprised” McDonald over the past six months—especially during the summer. The hottest months out of the year are usually the worst months for donations and financial help, said McDonald.
“Not only has it pleasantly surprised me, it’s blown me away,” Mc Donald said. “People in our community have really stepped up this summer and give like I’ve never seen before.”
To volunteer with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, please sign up at their website at communityfoodbank.org.