On the surface, people seem to have a lot more differences than what they have in common.

We all come from different backgrounds, experiences and socio-economic statuses, but one thing that everyone has in common is the need to eat.

Last month, people in the West Valley worked together as a community to accomplish a common goal: feeding those less fortunate than themselves by donating 4,063 pounds of food to four local food banks in the West Valley View’s eighth annual food drive.

The amount is up roughly 1,400 pounds over last year’s total, but not quite as much as 2011’s collection of roughly 5,200 pounds.

To Cassie Wilkins, director of the All Faith Community Services food banks, the positive increase and ability to give can be attributed to more employment opportunities in the economy.

I think we can be somewhat optimistic. The only problem with that is that most of the jobs out there we’re seeing right now are just entry-level positions,” she explained. “We’re still seeing families at poverty level, so we need to be sure we have food at the food bank to make sure their needs are being met.”

Fuller shelves

The View began the food drive in 2006 to help combat typically low food donations during the summer, when demand can go up as much as 20 percent, but donations can decrease as much as 25 percent, according to food bank officials.

One problem families face is struggling to make ends meet when children are home from school for the summer — working parents have to balance already-tight budgets with the extra costs of childcare and food, Wilkins explained.

Our shelves are looking full right now [with the donations], so we should be able to make it the next six to eight weeks while kids are still out of school,” she said.

Wilkins said the food donated during the drive will go toward emergency food boxes for families in need, as well as help send snack packs of canned fruit, pasta, cheese and crackers home with children to make sure they don’t go hungry between meals.

The summer food drive also enabled the All Faith Community Services food banks to provide a second emergency food box per month to families in dire need.

Just in the past week, I’ve helped three families. One family came here from Utah for a job that didn’t pan out. We hooked him up with some emergency food boxes and one of our employment packets,” Wilkins said. “He came back the following week and had found a job to start later this month. That was exciting to see.”

Continuing need, positive incentives

Still, Wilkins reminded the View that hunger never stops. With food banks serving families with as many as 50 emergency food boxes —each containing 20 pounds of dry goods — it’s easy for the shelves to become bare again even after a successful food drive.

I hate to see us use everything over the summer, then we have nothing for the next two or three months, then we’re moving into the holiday season,” she said. “If people could continue to think about donating just a little bag of goodies weekly or even monthly, you’d be surprised how every few pounds of product multiplied by however many people participate can have a huge impact.”

Small incentives offered by local businesses contributed to the success of this year’s drive.

Two of the largest donors for the summer food drive were both branches of the Avondale Library District, which offered an incentive of 50 cents off library late fees for every can of food donated.

People really liked it. Some people even brought in more food than their overdue fines, so that was really nice to see,” Library Manager Ava Gutwein said. “Patrons felt better about doing something for someone else than just paying off their fines. It was very positive. We’d love to do it again next year.”

To continue to donate to a West Valley food bank, visit one of the following locations:

• The Agua Fria Food & Clothing Bank, 405 E. Harrison St. in Avondale. For information, call 623-932-9135.

• All Faith Community Services Buckeye Food Bank, 214 S. Fifth St. in Buckeye. For information, call 623-386-3513.

• The All Faith Community Services Goodyear Food Bank @ the Open Arms Center, 918. S. Litchfield Road in Goodyear. For information, call 623-386-3513.

• The Tolleson Food Bank at the Tolleson Assembly of God, 10 S. 93rd Ave. For information, call 623-936-5199 or 623-936-1169.

Rachel Trott can be reached by email at rtrott@westvalleyview.com or on Twitter @byracheltrott.