There are slim pickings in the cupboards of the Queen Creek area’s food assistance programs, as donations struggle to keep pace with an increase in people seeking help.
“We’re seeing that there’s a lot more need,” said Mary Gloria, who runs the nonprofit group Pan de Vida out of her home near Queen Creek. “We’re seeing much more need from people who are without jobs, from people who are deciding whether they should buy food or make their mortgage payment.”
Her organization used to provide emergency food boxes to 100 families each week. Now, as the economy continues to struggle, each week they’re providing about 400 food boxes, she said.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” she said.
Gloria said the nonprofit food pantry, which serves the Queen Creek and Johnson Ranch areas, is also seeing fewer donations to meet the skyrocketing needs. The food boxes provide a week’s worth of groceries to a typical household, including dairy and meat products, fruit, vegetables and other staples.
Epic Christian Church’s food mission, based in Johnson Ranch, is facing similar issues. Food mission leader Cameo Rooney said donations are drying up, and the church now is reaching outside of the community for help. The mission usually relies on school canned food drives.
“We’ve been open for a year now, and we have seen a huge decrease in the amount of donations that we’ve been getting,” Rooney said. “We’re getting food, but it’s not filling our shelves.”
Rooney said the mission started out providing about 10 food boxes every other week, and now they are feeding more than 60 families each time they distribute food.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen is how many new people there are,” she said. “They’re not people you look at and say ‘they’re in need.’ It’s my next-door neighbor, it’s my best friend.”
Gloria said she has seen increased requests for diapers and gas money, even though her group does not provide cash. She called the problem “heartbreaking.”
Gloria is relying on supermarkets and donors to help fill the gap.
“We keep looking for help,” she said. “We keep trying to find people that will help us and try to do something because they are concerned about the needs of the community.”
Nonprofit organizations across the state are worried about the possible impact of reduced state and federal funding, as well as lower turnouts for fundraisers, said Patrick McWhortor, president and CEO of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits.
“Everybody is clearly worried,” McWhortor said. “The concern about the economy is having some ramifications.”
There isn’t any data about the economy’s effects on nonprofits, and effects are speculative, he said.
“But those organizations (that rely on state funding) go out and look at other sources,” he said. “The competition for the other sources becomes that much more of a crowded field.”
Despite the tough environment, McWhortor said giving is still evident.
“While people might cut back in their spending somewhat, they are still very generous in their giving,” he said. “We’re trying not to paint it as doom and gloom, but there is definitely concern across the sector.”