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Food insecurity in Arizona: school pantry program aims to help

The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is trying to help bring the number of children facing food insecurity down with their school pantry program.
Posted at 6:55 AM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 16:45:17-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — In the year before the pandemic, 11 million children across the country faced food in security. Once the pandemic hit, the number of hungry children increased.

“Before the pandemic in Arizona, one in four children suffered from food insecurity," Linda Kraemer, the family health and advocacy manager at Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, said. "With the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers are exacerbated so the rates are 20 percent higher.

Feeding America projects about 13 million children across the country may face food insecurity in 2021, a slight improvement from the 15 million who were hungry in 2020. In Arizona, over 200,000 children struggle to get the food they need.

The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is trying to help bring that number down. One of the bank's tools is their school pantry program, which is aimed at making food available to families in convenient locations. It is partnered with ten public schools and resource centers in southern Arizona.

The first school pantry in southern Arizona opened in 2014 at Wright Elementary School in an unused office space, which was converted into a pantry. According to the food bank, they operate 33 school pantries.

Local businesses like Larry H. Miller Dealerships in Tucson donated over 7,000 pounds of food to food banks across Arizona. They donated over 1,000 pounds of food to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

Kraemer said she's seen the school pantry help many families in need.

"A lot of the families have been directly impacted by COVID, whether it’s a loss of job or even a loss of family member," she said. "So when we go and distribute food at these schools the families are so grateful for the additional help."