TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - For many people the holiday season is a celebration of plenty. For people at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen it can be a reminder of the hunger they face everyday.
On Monday an informal mass brought together people who depend on the food they get from the kitchen, volunteers who help the kitchen serve, and neighbors who joined in the community spirit.
The people lining up for food are not what you might expect. Not everyone is homeless. Sonja Canez has a home but she has seven people in it. She says it's often a struggle to keep them fed.
"At the end of the month it would be hard. I think it would be hard for a lot of people if we didn't have this place. Because a lot of people need this place especially at the end of the month."
Eric Alexander is dressed sharp as if he's headed for a job interview. He's in a job training program about a block from Casa Maria. He says until he can turn that training into a job, he needs food from Casa Maria to keep him going.
"I got some popcorn, a sandwich, boiled egg, which I love boiled eggs. I have a banana and an orange and a few sandwiches."
Donated food comes in by the truckload--from grocery stores and restaurants. Chad Owens up before dawn filling a van with donations. By late morning he's loaded the van and unloaded it three times.
"It feels real good, but still, everything, it's just not enough usually. Usually there's more people and the food runs out. You do what you can do."
Brian Flagg has run the Casa Maria kitchen for a long time. He says on this day the kitchen will serve about 600 people. He says homeless people are just the most visible part of a poverty that reaches much deeper. U.S. Census figures show 25.1 percent of Tucsonans fall below the Federal poverty level, compared to 18.2 percent for Arizona as a whole, and 14.8 percent for the entire United States.
He says it's a shame that people are hungry in a nation so wealthy but sees some of the wealthy, and the poor trying to help.
"All kinds of stores, all kinds of churches, all kinds of individuals just come up with whatever they can come up with and bring it in here. People on the street, or people who are just on the street come and give me plastic bags. This one guy, I don't know how he does it, he brings me bags of groceries, every few weeks; and he's a real poor guy. I think he lives on the street."
And while the bags of food are meant to hold someone through the day, some of the people here foresee a hungry Christmas ahead.
WHERE TO FIND HELP
352 E. 25th Street
3003 S. Country Club Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85713
702 S. 6th Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85701
1002 N. Main Avenue,
Tucson, AZ 85705
2305 South Park Avenue