Mesa's United Food Bank is making it easy to donate this Thanksgiving with a drive-through turkey drop.
The food bank at 358 E. Javelina Ave. is extending its hours and adding staff in the parking lot so donors can pull up, drop off their turkeys and fixings, grab a receipt and be on their way.
"We're looking for 2,000 turkeys," said Donna Rodgers, director of resource development for United Food Bank. "Last year we were a little bit short of where we wanted to be, so we're hoping this year that won't be the case."
Turkey donations will be accepted beginning Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, Monday through Wednesday. Families also could use canned vegetables, potatoes, stuffing mix, bread, dessert and any other trimmings to make their Thanksgiving dinner complete.
The food bank also accepts grocery store gift cards, money and credit card donations.
United Food Bank is always in need of nonperishable food items, such as pasta, canned tuna and chicken, oatmeal, beans, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter and nuts.
Food banks have reported growing demand for years, but recently have seen dramatic declines in donations.
United Food Bank supplies about 240 agencies in four counties, from soup kitchens to the Salvation Army. From July through September, the food bank could not fill requests for nearly 1 million pounds of food. That's an increase of nearly 40 percent from the same period last year.
"We can't meet the demand," Rodgers said. "Our agencies are asking for more food, and we have less to give them."
The number of children who struggled to get enough to eat last year rose by 50 percent over 2006, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department's annual report on food security, released Monday. The federal report showed that 691,000 children went hungry in 2007.
In Arizona, 12 percent of families reported that they were "food insecure" at some point during 2007, which means they struggled to feed everyone in the household, relying on food banks, skipping meals or using other means to get by.
Of those in need of emergency food boxes, 40 percent are children or seniors, 30 percent are homeless and 30 percent are households with children headed by a single parent. Fifteen percent of families said their children have skipped meals because there was not enough money for food, according to statistics compiled by United Food Bank.