Information You Need: Food Insecurity in the Pandemic

Food insecurity can be defined as uncertain or limited access to enough food to be healthy. This could look like families running out of food before their next paycheck and being unable to buy more without borrowing money; families being unable to eat a balanced, healthy diet; or some/all family members eating less than they need in order to save food or ensure that someone else in the family eats enough. 

If you are struggling financially this year and are feeling unsure where your next meal is coming from, you are not alone. A recent survey of Arizona households between July 1 and August 10, 2020, by ASU and the National Food Access and COVID Research Team (NFACT), found that 1 in 3 households in Arizona have experienced some level of food insecurity since the beginning of the pandemic, a 28% increase from 2019. Even households without current food insecurity reported persistent worries about access and affordability of food in the future, showing that this is a widespread area of concern for many people in Arizona. 

If you are worrying about providing food for yourself or your family, these resources may help:  

  • 211Arizona
    • This is a statewide service available both online and by telephone that can help direct you to a wide variety of local resources. 
  • AZ Department of Economic Security 
    • DES provides a wide variety of government-funded hunger relief programs, including SNAP benefits, emergency food assistance (TEFAL), and many programs specific to seniors over 60 years old. 
  • Arizona Food Bank Network 
    • A network of food banks, food pantries and agencies across Arizona working to address hunger and food insecurity. This website can help connect you to the food banks in your area such as the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, United Food Bank serving much of northern AZ, and many more. 
  • Produce on Wheels Without Waste
    • Get up to 70lb of fresh produce for $12 by visiting a weekly distribution site. Produce will vary depending on availability and season, and is available first-come, first-served. If you are in the Nogales area, you can visit the distribution warehouse directly and get a full shopping cart of produce for only $5. Find out where, when and how this works by visiting their site. 
  • School Meal Programs
    • For families with school-age children, check with your children’s school to see if they are continuing to offer meals for students and family members throughout the winter break and beyond. 

If you would like, and are able, to support others during these unprecedented times of need:

Please consider donating to the Arizona Food Bank Network or to your local food bank. While all support is appreciated, here are some reasons to donate money instead of food: 

  • Food banks are able to purchase more food per dollar than the average consumer, making that money go further. 
  • Food banks are able to purchase the specific foods they need to supplement donated foods and provide well-rounded nutritional food packages.
  • Food banks are able to purchase fresh foods like dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables, which are less often donated, have a shorter shelf-life, and are more difficult and costly to store.
  • Finally, food banks are able to use donated money to purchase foods year-round and continue to provide food even when there are fewer donations. 

Other ways to help: 

  • If donating food or organizing a food drive makes more sense in your situation, we recommend contacting your local food bank(s) to confirm what they need and work with them to make your food drive as effective and helpful as possible. 
  • If you are looking to volunteer your time, contact your local food bank(s) to find out what opportunities are available and what physical distancing and safety precautions are in place to keep you safe. 

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