MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. -- Tammy Jerdee, a single mother of two, lost her job during the recession; her long-term unemployment benefits have expired.
"It’s just day to day," said Jerdee. "Since the recession, since the economic downfall, jobs are fewer; groceries are higher."
Jerdee estimates it would cost $200 a week to buy basic supplies, protein and produce for her family.
It’s a cost she can’t afford.
"Thank goodness for the dining hall. That’s Monday through Friday dinner covered," Jerdee explained.
Hers is one of a growing number of families who rely on St. Vincent De Paul in Phoenix for dinner.
"It’s not easy, but we do what we can," said Juan Cortez who was laid off from a manufacturing job. Cortez has six children to feed.
"I try not to say too much because it’s not their fault," said Cortez.
Arizona is considered the third worst state in the country when it comes to food insecurity among children. A new report published on Feeding America’s website reveals more than one in four children in Arizona don’t know where their next meal will come from.
More than 1 million people in the state struggle with food costs; nearly 602,000 people in Maricopa County. The data is from 2012, the most recent numbers available.
"So many families we have here are at or below the poverty level," said Jerry Brown of St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.
Brown said one factor is lower incomes in Arizona.
"Food prices are generally the same across the country. (Here) you’re not making as much as someone in other states, but you’re paying as much for food. That’s a hardship," said Brown.
As grocery prices rise, the food bank has less to give. Food boxes that used to be filled with canned vegetables, beans and protein now appear heavier in starches, such as rice, pasta and cereal.
However, families who need the help are grateful for whatever support they can receive, especially for the sake of their children.
"It’s very stressful," said Tammy Jerdee. "I’m just putting my best food forward, and I pray. I know I’ll find a good job; things are starting to turn around."
Meanwhile, if you’d like to help St. Mary’s Food Bank, bring 3 non-perishable food items to any Arby’s restaurant in central and northern Arizona from April 21 to 23, and you will receive a free Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwich.
Click here for information about the Arby's food drive for St. Mary's Food Bank