CORNUCOPIA COMMUNITY ADVOCATES serves our communities by seeking to improve our Yavapai County food system. We recently organized the Verde Valley Food Policy Council that is developing a regional Food System Improvement Plan.
With the impact of the Coronavirus, we offer this report on current crisis needs of the Yavapai County Food System:
Yavapai Food System Crisis Needs
Harvey Grady, Cornucopia Community Advocates 3/27/2020
FOOD INSECURE POPULATION
In Yavapai County, 32% of the population have been food-insecure, totaling 70,000 residents. With federal and state Coronavirus health guidelines, most businesses have closed, resulting in reduced work hours and job layoffs much greater than the 2008 Great Recession. We estimate that at least 50% of residents are now suddenly food-insecure, which means lacking income to purchase enough food to sustain active, health lives. Approximately 110,000 persons now must rely on local and federal food assistance programs.
Our Yavapai County Emergency Food Resource Directory 2019 presents a list of food banks, senior centers, and other local food assistance programs. Almost all of the organizations listed receive weekly food deliveries from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix. Most of the food now consists of fresh fruit and veggies. Senior commodity boxes are also available for persons 60 and older at or below 130% of the federal poverty income level.
- The Working Poor individuals and families need food assistance occasionally, yet it they lose work hours or jobs due to CV-19, they need food assistance weekly. Most often, they have means for transportation.
- 1 in 3 children are already food-insecure due to low family income. They receive federal meals at school, and the three school districts, plus the accommodation school are most likely making grab-and-go breakfast and lunch bags available for the schools that are now closed.
- Persons without transportation – the homebound, persons without cars – need food transported to them weekly. Their locations are subsidized housing apartments and low-income trailer parks. Most of these people are older, often retired on fixed incomes that no longer allow them to buy both food and medicines. They have to choose, and their food needs are greater in the third and fourth weeks of the month, when their money runs out. Persons Who Care helps with transportation with volunteers.
- Local food assistance programs are facing at least twice their usual number of clients, and some triple that number. St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance makes weekly deliveries to local food banks and pantries, hot meals programs, and residential programs. Each program places an order for next week’s food. This week St. Mary’s delivered the usual amount of food, and the local programs had to stretch it to feed 2 or 3 times the number of clients who have lost work hours or jobs. We’ll see if St. Mary’s is able to keep pace with expanded food orders for next week.
- Local food banks and pantries lack PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) supplies – hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, and at times hand-washing stations -for contact with clients. They are using the drive-through process recommended by the Governor where feasible. Those that serve the homeless let clients pick up a box of food, and those that deliver food to the homebound drop a box at the front door. The PPE supply chain has been exhausted at present, yet will gear up in coming months, so PPE orders need to be made, hopefully from a central source, such as our county government.
- Loss of volunteers has occurred in most of the food banks and pantries due to the lack of PPE. Programs have had to recruit high school kids who are out of school or make special appeals for volunteers to address their doubled or tripled workloads. If the shortage of volunteers increases, some programs will have to close temporarily.
- Extra purchases of food occurred this week at food assistance programs with funds available to buy food from supermarkets. Most programs do not have deep pockets. If their client numbers keep expanding, they will not be able to purchase extra food.
- Hot meals programs, including senior centers, have converted to take-out lines and have run out of food with sharp increases in the number of clients.
- SNAP and WIC applicants are able to go online to enroll without a personal interview during this crisis, and SNAP work requirements for Yavapai County have been withdrawn during this crisis. However, most persons in need remain unaware of these options. Wildfire, formerly known as Arizona Community Action Association, is searching for nonprofits willing to promote online enrollments for persons in dire need.
- Some Chambers of Commerce are making available to the public lists of restaurants offering meals for take-out and delivery to keep restaurants in business and reduce layoffs. At Cornucopia, we are creating a webpage for restaurants in the Verde Valley area because most of our communities are not listing their restaurants. We encourage a similar restaurant list for the Quad Cities area.
- Farmers and ranchers are facing the question of what crops to plant, if any, during this crisis. Across America, farms and ranches have suffered from loss of international sales due to tariff wars, and their bankruptcy rates are at an all-time high. If restaurants remain closed for months, many will close, reducing retail sales for our farmers and ranchers. Cornucopia will facilitate farmers and ranchers making connection with several funding sources for loans and grants, including USDA. We’ll work with the Arizona Farm Bureau and the Arizona Cattle Growers Association.
Collectively we will meet the need in our community!
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“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
From all of us, Thank you Harvey & Julie Grady for your beautiful vision and compassion to have created Cornucopia Community Advocates almost 20 years ago!
There are countless people who will never know they have been served by the blessings of your actions. For them, our deepest gratitude. – The Community