Homeless beggar man sitting outdoors in city asking for money donation.

Food-deprivation in Mesa has long been a concern among local officials and since the pandemic’s onset in March, the need for help has grown exponentially.

But United Food Bank and Mesa United Way got a few shots in the arm recently to help meet that need.

On Oct. 30, four local branches of Iglesia Ni Christo (Church of Christ) – from Phoenix, Maricopa, Gilbert and Tempe – contributed 100 boxes of food and $5,000 to the food bank and another $5,000 to Mesa United Way.

The gifts, presented by Church of Christ District Minister Brother Artemio Pilon Jr. and Brother Ador Apostol.

Mayor John Giles and Mesa United Way Vice President Alicia Holmes praised the church for its donation.

“This gift from the church is directly related to our efforts to get food to the community,” Giles said, recalling how “there was real panic” when the pandemic’s impact first began hitting the city in March.

Holmes said the church’s gift, if emulated, makes a significant impact.

“If everybody gave a little bit, it creates an ocean of humanity and kindness,” she said. 

This year, United Food Bank will distribute an additional five million pounds of food through food distribution events and its 220 partner agencies to address increase need due to the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Thunderbirds Charities awarded United Food Bank and affiliate Waste Not a combined $200,000 grant.

Waste Not rescues suddenly-available perishable foods from restaurants and event venues that closed abruptly and match it directly with people in need.

“We value our partnership with United Food Bank and Waste Not and the support they provide for those in need in our community,” said Tim Woods, Thunderbirds Charities President. “At Thunderbirds Charities, we know the deep and long-lasting impact that food insecurity has on families.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented spike in hunger; affecting family’s right here in Arizona with 1 in 8 people struggling with hunger. Thunderbird Charities awarding United Food Bank and Waste Not this grant comes at a vital time for the food banks to meet this demand.     

“This grant is an example of the wonderful ways in which Thunderbirds Charities continues to provide vital funds to meet our community’s most pressing food needs,” said Dave Richins, United Food Bank president and CEO. 

“Responding to increased food assistance needs brought on by the economic impact of the pandemic has required significant added transportation resources – from refrigerated trucks and trailers to drivers -- that this grant will greatly support.”

“The generosity of Thunderbirds Charities is something we at Waste Not are so thankful for.  These funds will be used to provide food to over 60 nonprofits in the Valley that serve countless children and families impacted by this pandemic,” added Kate Thoene, executive director of Waste Not.

In 2019, United Food Bank distributed almost 24 million pounds of food providing nearly 19.5 million meals to our neighbors in need. In response to the economic impact of COVID-19, the food bank projects it will distribute nearly 29 million pounds of food (24 million meals) this year.

Waste Not is an Arizona nonprofit dedicated to creating sustainable food systems.

Each year, 40 percent of food is thrown away, and at the same time, nearly 1 million people in Arizona are struggling with food insecurity, it said. 

“We’re transforming this broken system by connecting tens of thousands of Arizonans with quality food that would have otherwise gone to waste,” a spokesman said.

The Thunderbirds were founded in 1937 to promote the Valley of the Sun through sports and Thunderbird Charities is its charitable arm.

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