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Feeding the hungry for 20-plus years

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VOLUNTEER PIEDAD TAPIO packs a food box Tuesday at the Tolleson Food Bank. The food bank, at 10 S. 93rd Ave., distributes 75 to 150 food boxes to people in need every Tuesday. View photo by David Weibel
VOLUNTEER PIEDAD TAPIO packs a food box Tuesday at the Tolleson Food Bank. The food bank, at 10 S. 93rd Ave., distributes 75 to 150 food boxes to people in need every Tuesday. View photo by David Weibel

Summer food drive

The West Valley View’s annual summer food drive benefits the following sites:

• Agua Fria Food and Clothing Bank, 405 E. Harrison St. in Avondale; 623-932-9135. Open 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

• Agua Fria Food and Clothing Bank Tonopah site, 36827 W. Indian School Road in Tonopah; 623-932-9135. Open 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

• All Faith Community Services Buckeye Food Bank, 214 S. Fifth St. in Buckeye; 623-386-3513. Open 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• All Faith Community Services Goodyear Food Bank, 918 S. Litchfield Road in Goodyear; 480-652-2415. Open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

• Tolleson Food Bank at the Tolleson Assembly of God, 10 S. 93rd Ave. in Tolleson; 623-936-5199 or 623-936-1169. Open 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesday, until food is gone.

To see a list of locations where you can donate food, see Page 5 in today’s edition of the View.

Tolleson Food Bank hands out 75-150 food boxes each week to those in need

The Tolleson Food Bank began more than 20 years ago after Charles Clark, the now retired pastor of Tolleson Assembly of God Church, noticed piles of turnips going unused in a local field.

He made it his mission to gather excess food donations from farmers and local businesses to give to individuals and families who were in need.

Years later, the food bank has changed hands but the mission — and the hunger — is still the same.

We purchased the building about two years ago and assumed stewardship at that time,” said the Rev. Mike Sims, who oversees the food bank while working as the pastor for the Bridge Community Church in Tolleson. “When the building became available, I had no idea the magnitude of the 10 to 20 tons of food that goes through the bank every month.”

True to its beginnings, the Tolleson Food Bank still relies on donations from businesses and people and receives no outside federal or state assistance, Sims said.

The Tolleson Food Bank distributes an average of 75 to 150 food boxes to people from 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesdays at 10 S. 93rd Ave. in Tolleson. If people can’t make it then, or find that they are looking at empty cupboards before the distribution day, the food bank also gives emergency food boxes from 8 to 10 a.m. Mondays through Fridays at the same location.

Boxes are also distributed to various churches around the Valley to be given out to other congregations in need.

The size and content of the boxes change according to donations, but the food bank tries to give enough meat, dairy, vegetables and bread to help supplement a person or family’s diet for the week, Sims said.

We’re in need of more meat and cheese,” he said. “Dry and canned goods are always good, because we can put those on the shelves and not have to worry about them going out of date.”

People served, volunteers

Most of the people receiving food boxes on Tuesdays are working families with children who earn low incomes, or seniors on fixed incomes, Sims said.

We have a lot of low-income families in our community, and they probably don’t receive enough on Tuesday morning for the whole week, but it helps them stretch what they can afford to buy at the markets.”

Tolleson Food Bank’s population reflects the national statistics. Currently, one in seven seniors and one in three children live in poverty and suffer from food insecurity, according to statistics provided by St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

Arizona’s number of children facing hunger is the third highest in the country, following New Mexico and Mississippi with roughly 450,000 children not having enough to eat, according to statistics.

Of the families considered to be facing hunger, more than 40 percent have at least one person working, according to statistics.

The need is only getting worse, with an 85 percent increase in Arizonans needing emergency food assistance compared to statistics last calculated in 2009, according to United Food Bank research.

In addition to food donations from individuals or businesses, the Tolleson Food Bank is also in need of volunteers to help sort, pack and distribute food boxes, Sims said.

New volunteers will be in good company, as most of the current volunteers like it enough to stick around for a long time.

We have between 20 to 25 volunteers at the food bank, most of them senior citizens who have been helping for 10 to 15 years,” Sims said. “Lucy Woodruff has been our director for more than 15 years and helps schedule volunteers. She’s 81 years old and has more energy than I have.”

For information or to volunteer, call the food bank and ask for Woodruff at 623-478-3988.

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