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Food Banks Gear Up to Feed Arizonans Affected by Coronavirus Crisis

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A volunteer helps distribute groceries last week at the Help Yourself Food Co-op, held every Friday in Mesa. It is sponsored by United Food Bank, part of the Arizona Food Bank Network and Feeding America. (United Food Bank photo)
A volunteer helps distribute groceries last week at the Help Yourself Food Co-op, held every Friday in Mesa. It is sponsored by United Food Bank, part of the Arizona Food Bank Network and Feeding America. (United Food Bank photo)
 By Mark Richardson - Producer, Contact
March 17, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- As the full effect of the coronavirus sets in, thousands of people in Arizona have been sent home from their jobs to wait out the pandemic. And without paychecks, many will need help putting food on the table.

Because of that, the state's food banks are gearing up to provide more meals and serve an ever-growing number of Arizonans who suddenly have become food insecure. Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of the Arizona Food Bank Network, said they are ready to serve a growing number of people, but because they are dealing with an infectious disease, they will handle some things differently.

"Maybe when you come to a food pantry, instead of coming into our offices, you'll be asked to stay in your car and we'll bring the food box to you," Rodgers said. "We're looking at what our capacity looks like for delivery to some individuals."

As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic became evident, most large gatherings such as sporting events or concerts were canceled or postponed, and public health officials have asked most Arizonans to remain at home for the next several weeks.

While many Arizona school districts are allowing their home-bound students to pick up daily meals at their schools, many more families are expected to turn to food pantries to stretch their monthly budget. Rodgers said they are confident they can take care of everyone.

"I think people should feel comfortable knowing that there will be food," she said. "But again, the operations may be different. The hours may be different. We're encouraging people to call ahead before they either go to volunteer or before they go to access the food box."

Rodgers said they welcome anyone who wants to volunteer to help them handle and distribute food, but they ask that both volunteers and people picking up food boxes observe good hygiene practices, such as proper hand-washing and social distancing.

She said last week's run that cleared the shelves of food and other items at Arizona grocery stores was not really necessary.

"Typically, grocery is one of our largest food-donation partners," she said. "We just want to be mindful that everybody should take what they need and hopefully no more, so that there's enough to go around during this period."

She said people who need to locate a nearby food pantry or wish to donate to food banks or volunteer their time can get information at AZFoodBanks.org.

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