Food boxes from United Food Bank

Food boxes from United Food Bank have been in high demand as the pandemic's economic toll impacts more Mesa families.

United Food Bank is working to keep providing meals amid a growing need.

Staff at the Mesa Convention Center has been pitching in since March, when United Food Bank moved its food assistance program to the center’s parking lot, where volunteers can provide a contact-less, drive-thru food distribution outdoors. 

Tyson Nansel, the food bank’s vice president of external affairs, said a larger distribution point was necessary because their own facility had a “major influx” of families needing food assistance. 

The City, as part of its Mesa CARES: Feeding Mesa Program, also partnered with United Food bank in March to address food security resulting from the pandemic.

Its mission to provide nutritious meals to Mesa residents has been helped by nonprofits and restaurants that have joined the effort.

The city is fulfilling this mission with services like the Restaurant Buyout Program. City staff reassigned to Feeding Mesa order meals from Mesa restaurants affected by the pandemic, pay for them with Mesa Cares funding and deliver them to front-line healthcare workers five days a week. 

They’ve also continued to partner

with United Food Bank to support meal distribution.

Other city departments also have stepped up. For example, earlier this month, volunteers from the Mesa Fire and Medical Department helped pack food bags.

Among the city employees who were assigned to help the food distribution effort were those from the Mesa Art Center and Parks and Recreation Department. 

“It’s a true partnership we have with their staff here on a daily basis,” said Luis Ruiz, convention center general manager. “We have to be communicating constantly.” 

Nansel reported that on average, the United Food Bank builds about 20,000 emergency food bags per month and is distributing about 2.4 million pounds of food per month. 

For the upcoming holiday season, Nansel anticipates an increase in families seeking food assistance and that United Food Bank is preparing for it.

In light of that expected increase in demand, Nansel said volunteering, hosting a food drive or fundraiser or simply donating can help. With the United Food Banks purchasing power, the nonprofit turns every dollar donated into five meals for the community, he said. 

United Food Bank will remain at the Mesa Convention Center through Dec. 18.   

The Mesa Convention Center is located on 263 N Center St., and is open for food distribution 7-11 a.m. Fridays with extended hours through noon on Nov. 20 and Dec. 18 for holiday food distribution.

Information: unitedfoodbank.org.

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