Governor Doug Ducey announced Dec. 13 that $460,000 as part of AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund will be distributed to food banks in rural counties across the state as a way of battling hunger.

The Arizona Food Bank Network, which will distribute the funds, is granting requests in rural communities across the state. The Mt. Graham Safe House in Safford has been awarded funds and an application is pending for the Duncan Food Bank.

Duncan Food Bank Director Amber Sumner said she is looking to fully stock the pantry with canned goods at the Clifton-Morenci food bank, which is slated to open this March.

The Duncan Food Bank currently serves 200 families per month. In Clifton, the organization accommodates 125 families with commodity distribution.

Sumner said that the food bank completed a needs assessment at the beginning of the year and learned that the top three items people want to see the most at the facility are meat, dairy and fruit.

“We’ve been gearing all of our food purchases towards those, the items on the needs assessment,” she said.

Dorsha Frye, the Greenlee Mobile Advocate at the Mt. Graham Safe House, said there are many departments that have different needs.

Frye, who writes grant proposals for the organization, said they received a grant for the food bank last year and were able to purchase a new stove and refrigerator.

During the pandemic, she described Mt. Graham Safe House as being down to a ‘skeleton staff,’ and would only have a volunteer work one day a week while others would have to work from home.

She added they have zero permanent volunteers at their facility at this time.

Frye described the current supply chain as being ‘terrible,’ due to the inability of being able to get certain foods or supplies for the shelter not arriving in a timely manner.

“They should be making their determinations here fairly soon,” she said, referring to the Arizona Food Bank Network.

Angie Rodgers, CEO and President of the Arizona Food Bank Network said the governor was instrumental in helping access private funds. The organization will lead distribution of the grant money to different rural communities in the state.

Maricopa County received direct federal resources to support the county, but Rodgers said the network recognized the balance of the state had significant needs and recovery looked different for communities and agency partners.

The entire $460,000 will be directed to partners in rural communities.

The funds have been recently awarded to Mt. Graham Safe House in Safford as one of the applicants that have applied for grant assistance.

“Our intent is to award funds to every county,” she said, stating that applicants have requested grant support from every county in the state.

She said there is no specific limit on resources but that the Arizona Food Bank Network is aiming to provide an average of $10,000 in grant support per organization.

Rodgers said what different agencies need the money for varies.

Some organizations in rural counties are in need of operational support, like additional assistance with staffing. Organizations are also asking for operational improvements to accommodate capacity needs such as refrigeration or freezer space.

There have been requests for grant assistance by supporting distance distribution. This would include supplying protective gear and cones for drive-ups, allowing for workers to distribute food safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Rural communities are already heavily impacted by supply chain disruptions,” Rodgers said.

With a myriad of issues that have been created from the pandemic, Rodgers said the food bank network is able to supply the resources that agencies may need due to supply chains being disrupted from local partners. This would include support from the National Guard in placement of staffing and volunteer shortages at food banks or protective gear for staff.

“What’s critical is making sure that we address the increased demand related to COVID and make sure we keep both our customers and our volunteers and staff members safe during those distributions,” Rodgers said.

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