As food banks nationwide rushed supplies to Louisiana and Mississippi in the wake of Gulf Coast hurricanes, few thought twice about its effect on the holidays. But with Thanksgiving looming this week, at least one prominent Valley food bank is worried that donors are fatigued.
"Donors have been asked to give a lot longer and a lot heavier this year," said Cynde Cerf, spokeswoman for Phoenixbased St. Mary’s/Westside Food Bank
Alliance, which started the world’s first food bank in 1967.
"We’ve been asked a lot, ‘When is it going to stop?’ " she said.
The past year has been dotted with natural disasters worldwide, beginning with the Indian Ocean tsunami the day after Christmas. Then came the hurricanes, followed by a devastating South Asian earthquake.
Americans gave food and aid on and off all year and some charities, such as St. Mary’s/Westside, fear regular donors could be wearing thin.
"I think anytime that you have an outpouring of generosity like we’ve seen with disaster relief . . . you’re concerned people are going to feel tapped out," said Fred Bates of the Association of Arizona Food Banks.
The fears are crucial during the holi- days, a time characterized by generosity, when food banks usually receive as much as one-third of their annual donations in just over a month.
The challenge now is to convince donors to keep in step with their usual holiday giving. "We still have neighbors here that are in need," Cerf said.
Others, however, aren’t sure their regular donors are ready to stop giving.
"I’m not really concerned about donor fatigue," said Bob Evans, chief executive officer of Mesa-based United Food Bank. "If you’re doing the right thing, it will take care of itself."
Evans said the message he tries to get out to donors this and every year is that people are hungry and need food 365 days a year — not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"The need is constant. It just becomes more on people’s minds during Thanksgiving and Christmas," Evans said. "As a food bank, we try to tap into that."
Food banks use the holidaytime generosity to their advantage, storing nonperishable supplies to feed people months after the giving season ends.
Evans and Cerf said their food supplies ran pretty low around the end of this year’s hurricane season, but that was attributed to the typical donation cycle — August and September are scant months for giving — not the amount of food spent on hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures cited by St. Mary’s/Westside food bank, 686,375 Arizonans don’t know where their next meals will come from on any given day.
Ways to help
Bring nonperishable food or a frozen turkey to:
• Any Trader Joe’s in the Valley
• St. Mary’s Food Bank, 2831 N. 31st Ave., in Phoenix, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through Wednesday
Donate nonperishable food or money at any Valley location of these businesses:
• Allied Cash Advance
• Brakes Plus
• Diamond Shamrock
• Fort McDowell Casino
• Gila River Casinos
• Henry’s Farmers Markets
• ShapeXpress for Women
• Sprout’s Markets
• Wells Fargo Financial Services