Food bank donations down; you can make a difference this holiday season

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Ryan O'Donnell

Posted on November 21, 2011 at 6:56 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 21 at 8:02 AM

Map: St. Mary's Food Banks
Phoenix, Surprise & Flagstaff

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PHOENIX -- More Arizonans than ever need a little extra help this holiday season, but according to St. Mary's Food Bank, the donations just are not there.

With just a few days to go until Thanksgiving, the shelves of St. Mary's Food Bank should be well-stocked with food for those in need. Unfortunately, that's not the case this year.

At this point, St. Mary's has collected only 1,400 turkeys, which might sound like a lot, but it's 30 percent fewer than what they had last year. Donations of canned goods and other non-perishable items are down by almost 50 percent.

"We have never had a holiday season where we ran out and couldn’t find a way to help everyone," said Jerry Brown of St. Mary's Food Bank in an email after the organization's Super Saturday Turkey Drive fell short of its goal.

Terry Shannon, the president and CEO of St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance, said hunger has nearly doubled in Arizona since the economy started tanking in summer 2008.

"St. Mary’s and other food banks are feeling the triple whammy of increased food prices, increased demand and decreased donations," Brown said.

St. Mary's is asking the public for help, emphasizing that any donation can make a huge difference. No contribution is too small; every single can is greatly appreciated.

"We ask that during this season, you remember those who continue to suffer the fallout from this recession and need assistance from their neighbors, " Shannon wrote on the organization's website. "St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance can only provide these services, and feed the one in four children now struggling in our state, with your help."

Shannon said about 50,000 families rely on the food bank's services during the holiday season.

"We're trying to put together a holiday food box for distribution in the community that has all of the holiday fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving meal," Shannon explained.

But the need goes beyond the holiday season. An incredible number of family go to St. Mary's for support throughout the year.

"The folks who are going to get this holiday box today are going to be back in January and February because the economy is not getting any better at this point," Shannon said.

St. Mary's has launched a three-day drive to fill as many of its holiday food boxes as possible. They need fresh or frozen turkeys, canned goods, and dry goods like pasta, rice and stuffing.

St. Mary's Food Bank is located at 2831 N. 31st Ave., Phoenix. Donations will be accepted at its Surprise and Flagstaff facilities, as well.

If you cannot make it to St. Mary's to make a contribution, 3TV has teamed up with Fry's for a Million Meal Mission to make helping people this holiday season very easy.

Donate at any Fry's Food Store location by adding your donation amount to your grocery bill. A donation of $2.50 will provide enough food for 17 meals. A donation of $10 will provide enough food for 70 meals.

The Arizona's Family Holiday Food Drive runs through Dec. 31.

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