Duncan residents will notice some more changes at the Duncan Food Bank of First Southern Baptist Church this week. Thanks to a new grant from the United Way of Graham and Greenlee County, more concrete will poured around the facility.

The United Way awarded the Gale Avenue food bank $12,000 recently, money that will be used to purchase a forklift, additional concrete and a copy machine, said Director Amber Sumner.

Every month, the food bank receives two shipments of 12-20 pallets from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Sumner said. Up until now, volunteers have had to borrow a forklift from the Town of Duncan or Town and Country Supply to unload those shipments.

They’ve also had to maneuver that forklift over gravel to get to the food bank’s refrigeration and dry foods storage units, which hasn’t been an easy feat, she said.

The food bank operates completely on grant funding and help from Freeport-McMoRan’s employee engagement program, Sumner said.

Thanks to the United Way, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and the Arizona Food Bank Network, the food bank became its own independent food bank in January 2020 and was able to purchase the food storage units, she said.

Prior to that, the food bank operated out of the church.

When the pandemic hit, Sumner said they were set up to be able to handle an increase in demand.

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“It was God’s timing to have us ready,” she said.

Last year during the height of the pandemic, the food bank served 350 families a month, she said. Lately, they’ve been helping about 180 families a month.

January alone saw a 65% increase in new clients, Sumner said.

“I’ve heard from several people, ‘Our family would’ve starved without the food bank,’” she said.

The drive-through operation serves a good mix of elderly residents and people who may be working, but are still struggling, Sumner said.

It’s also thanks to grant funding that the food bank has also been able to compensate Sumner for a little bit of the time she spends taking care of inventory, writing reports, applying for grants, coordinating deliveries and distributions and handling food safety requirements.

At the end of last year, she began receiving a paycheck for 10 hours a week, she said.

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