1 In 5 Arizonans has trouble feeding family

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PHOENIX -- New numbers from the Food Research and Action Center shows that about one in five Arizonans had a tough time feeding their families last year.

According to the Association of Arizona Food Banks, that's an increase of nearly 2 percent when you compare with 2008. Then, Arizona was 22nd in the country. Now it's 17th. While not the case here in Arizona, food hardship numbers nationwide for 2009 were actually down from 2008.

“This data confirms what we’re seeing in communities throughout Arizona, and it provides a current look at how pervasive households’ struggle with hunger have become that we didn’t previously have,” said Ginny Hildebrand, president and CEO of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, in a news release. “Certainly there’s still much work to be done to assist our struggling individuals and families in this economy.”

The Desert Mission Food Bank is one of many organizations that has been helping struggling Arizonans since the 1920s. Sharon Pierson, director of the Desert Mission Food Bank in Phoenix, said people who used to donate to the food bank are now going there for help.

"We call them the new poor," she said. "They're our neighbors and our friends that we work with. ... They need our food. They need our friendship. And they need our compassion.

“These striking numbers show how badly Arizona’s economy struggled in 2009.Desert Mission has seen the impact of increased food hardship by serving more clients than ever before.”

"The good news is ... it's stabilizing in 2009," said Brian Simpson with the Association of Arizona Food Banks "It doesn't seem to be getting worse, but obviously it's not where we want to be."

The increased demand is putting a strain on Arizona's food banks. They need monetary donations, as well as contributions of food and supplies. If time is all you can afford to give, many facilities could also use more volunteers.

"A $10 donation can feed a family of four for three days," Simpson said. "It doesn't take much to help."

These latest numbers come on the heels of a report put out by Feeding America that looked at hunger among children throughout the country. With more the 20 percent of children under 18 food insecure, Arizona had the fifth highest rate in the nation.

The Association of Arizona Food Banks was established is 1984, and is made up of five member food banks, including Desert Mission.