This Thanksgiving, Valley food banks are thankful for a surge in volunteers and donations. But they also point out the need for such goodwill beyond the holidays.
"We get overvolunteered on Thanksgiving," said Pastor Rex Stroke of the Without Walls Christian Center in Chandler, which runs a food bank in Mesa. "That's the day everybody shows up. We have more volunteers than we have people to feed."
Donna Rodgers, director of resource development at United Food Bank, a Mesa food bank distribution center, said that the influx abruptly ends "without fail on Jan. 2."
"It's like someone turned off the faucet."
Individual donations from December 2008 to January 2009 at the United Food Bank dropped by 85 percent.
"The need for food does not end with the holiday season; people need food year-round," said Trinity Donovan, executive director of the Chandler Christian Community Center.
This January especially, the unforgiving economy means that the giving spirit needs to continue. Food banks' requests for help have more than doubled from last year.
"A month this year compared to a month last year has a 65 percent increase," Donovan said. "People who used to be giving food now need food."
At Without Walls, pounds of food given out increased from 5,000 in May to 7,000 in July, 9,000 in August and 18,000 in September. The amount given out in October decreased to 17,000 pounds.
"The economy is definitely a part of it," Stroke said. "You see how grateful people are, how desperate they are."
Requests for food from Rodgers and Stroke include frozen turkeys as well as nonseasonal items. Small bags of rice, pasta, pasta sauce, peanut butter, canned fruits, canned meat and canned vegetables are also needed.
Stroke even requested feminine hygiene products, blankets, personal care items, white socks and underwear.
"If people can't afford food, they can't afford anything," Stroke said.
And for those who can't afford it, food banks make sure that they still have something to be thankful for year-round.
"You tell us you're hungry and you need food and we have it, we give it to you," Stroke said.