Mary’s Food Bank was founded in 1967 by John van Hengel after he worked serving meals at St. Vincent DePaul. A mother told him that soup kitchens and dumpsters were the only way she could feed her children. He came up with this concept that those with extra food could “deposit” it, so that those needing food could “withdraw” it. With $3000 and an abandoned building, Van Hengel created a model that would be replicated all over the nation. St. Mary’s Food Bank in Arizona is currently one of the largest food banks in the US.
In Arizona, 1 in 3 children live in poverty with “456,760 children facing hunger on a daily basis. […] 2 million Arizonans are considered working poor, living at or below the Federal Poverty Guideline.” St. Mary’s has a variety of programs to try to distribute food to the largest number of people in need. There are countless opportunities for donations or for individuals and businesses to work with them.
- Emergency Food Boxes: These boxes are delivered to those in need at no cost.
- Community Kitchen and Catering: A life skills and food service training program where the student staff can be hired to cater for an event or party.
- Child Nutrition Programs: The Kids Cafe and Backpack programs attempt to alleviate hunger in Arizona. 1 in 4 kids in Arizona will go to bed hungry.
- Hungry Heroes: This program allows the organization to recognize and honor organizations going above-and-beyond to support their community through gifts of time, food, or money.
- Mobile Pantry: This allows the food bank to provide emergency boxes to those who cannot come to the food bank to receive them.
To look into volunteer or donation options, see their website for details. Any gift, large or small, makes a difference.