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4:35 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

962,556 pounds of food donated in 2016

The Yavapai Food Council’s Neighborhood Project collects food donations the second Saturday of even numbered months in a green bag, and those are then distributed to food banks throughout the county.

Yavapai County Food Council Neighborhood Project/Courtesy

The Yavapai Food Council’s Neighborhood Project collects food donations the second Saturday of even numbered months in a green bag, and those are then distributed to food banks throughout the county.

Yavapai County Food Bank Executive Director Ann Wilson said she feels “blessed” to work in a community that is so generous to their less fortunate neighbors.

In the last year, Wilson said the community donated 962,556 pounds of food, enough to feed 2,600 families a month, with the average family size of 3.5 adults and children.

Every week, some 62 volunteers donate as much as 20 hours at the food bank where they help fill 650 boxes of food per week, with each one containing a variety of dried and canned goods as well frozen meat, dairy products, fresh vegetables, breads and baked treats. Almost all of the goods distributed are donated from local sources, although Wilson said there are financial donors who allow them to purchase items that end up in short supply, such as peanut butter and cereal. Local grocery stores are generous donors, particularly with the meat supply that the food bank is able to collect because it has a freezer truck and freezer space in its Prescott Valley warehouse, Wilson said.

In addition to providing supplies for weekly meals, the food bank also holds special holiday drives and benefits. For the holidays, Wilson said the food bank had an adopt-a-family program that generated toys clothing and food for 90 families.

“It was incredible,” Wilson said of the generosity.

Meals on Wheels in Prescott Executive Director Bert Ijams is equally pleased with the community’s generosity for its clients, with 130 volunteers part of a delivery system that provided 45,000 meals to homebound adults and senior citizens this year. In addition, Meals on Wheels also served 15,000 public meals in the dining room at the Adult Center in Prescott. For the holidays, 50 Meals on Wheels clients were adopted by Home Instead and Rummel Eye Care for their “Be A Santa to a Senior” program. Other businesses and local residents provided food boxes, ornaments, personal hygiene items and cards.

“We have definitely been blessed from businesses, foundations and the individual donor to make the holidays special for those we serve,” said agency Development Coordinator Tina Blake. “A very merry season, indeed.”

The Yavapai Food Council headquartered in Sedona just released its 2016 end-of-year results boasting distribution of 345,715 meals in 2016, a collaboration with community volunteers, emergency food providers, faith-based organizations, schools, and donors.

In an agency news release, Council Executive Director Amy Aossey emphasized that 49 million Americans “don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

Yavapai County is no exception.

“Food insecurity” impacts one out of three children, one of five adults and one out of seven seniors in Yavapai County, she said in the release.

Over 55 percent of students in Yavapai County qualify for USDA free or reduced meals, according to the state Department of Education.

The Food Council offers several hunger prevention programs, including a neighborhood-based food project that allows community residents to easily collect non-perishable foods that are then collected by volunteer neighborhood coordinators and distributed where they are needed. The coordinators form their own “neighborhoods” of 15 to 20 food donors who are given green, reusable cloth bags that they fill when they buy their groceries. Then on the second Saturday of even numbered months – February, April, June, August, October and December – the bags are left at the residents’ front door and a coordinator picks them up. The empty bag is left behind to be filled for the next pickup. All the food is weighed and sorted, and then distributed to local food banks, pantries and hunger prevention programs.

This year, Aossey said that program provided 100,156 pounds of food, equivalent to 83,463 meals.

To volunteer with the Yavapai Food Neighbors Project, call Mike Newcomb at 928-821-3953. For more information on council programs, or to volunteer, call 928-254-8172 or visit the website: www.YavapaiFoodCouncil.org