Summary: 2016 year-end results show that Yavapai Food Council distributed 345,715 meals to Yavapai County food banks and other emergency food providers since January.
Sedona AZ (December 21, 2016) – Experts say that people who dont know where their next meal is coming from are experiencing food insecurity. Forty nine million Americans face this situation every day. Yavapai County is no exception. One out of three kids, one out of five adults, one out of seven seniors in Yavapai County are food-insecure. According to the 2016 Arizona Department of Education Free & Reduced Meals Report, over 55% of the students in Yavapai County schools qualify for USDA free or reduced meals programs.
Distribution of 345,715 meals in 2016 is the result of collaborations between Yavapai Food Council (YFC), community volunteers, emergency food providers, faith-based organizations, schools, and donors/funders. Yavapai Food Council is a 501c3 Arizona charitable organization that works to prevent hunger countywide through several programs, including the Yavapai Food Neighbors Project, Bountiful Kitchen School Meals Program, Weekend Food Packs for Hungry Kids, and SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) Outreach and Assister Services.
2016 Yavapai Food Neighbors Project results: This is a community-based food donor project. Neighborhood food donors are supplied green bags of food throughout the year to benefit local food banks and pantries. In 2016, Yavapai County donors provided 100,156 pounds of shelf stable food, equivalent to 83,463 meals.
The program is simple and effective. Volunteer Neighborhood Coordinators form their own neighborhood of 15- 20 food donors. Food donors can come from neighbors, co-workers, family or friends. Each food donor is provided a reusable green bag and is asked to buy an extra food item or two when they buy groceries and place them in their bag. Then, on the second Saturday of even numbered months, (Feb, Apr, Jun, Aug, Oct, Dec) the donors place their filled green bag at their door for the Neighborhood Coordinator to pick up, and an empty bag is left in its place. The food collected is then taken to a local collection event where it is weighed, sorted, and distributed to community food banks, pantries, and hunger programs.
Bountiful Kitchen 2016 launch results: During the first 8 weeks of operations, Bountiful Kitchen delivered 14,732 breakfasts and lunches to students at two Verde Valley schools. Currently, 22 out of 80 Yavapai County public schools are unable to serve meals because they do not have certified, commercial kitchens on campus. Bountiful Kitchen prepares, packs and delivers meals to schools that have over 50% of the student population who qualify for free or reduced meals.
The Bountiful Kitchen is a nonprofit commercial kitchen operating with minimal staff and dedicated volunteers. An internship program has been established for college students in hospitality and restaurant management, and a farm to school program is in place with organic produce coming weekly from Verde Valley School. YFC dedicates a minimum of 90% of the funds received for meals directly to food costs, ensuring that the food quality, quantity, and menu variation keeps students interested and excited about participating in the free and reduced meal program. American Heritage Academy schools in Cottonwood and Camp Verde are currently receive meals, and Desert Star Community School is likely to start meal service in January 2017.
Weekend Meals for Students: To offset the weekends when food insecure kids do not have access to free and reduced school meals, the Yavapai Food Council collaborates with local food banks, faith-based organizations, schools, the Yavapai Food Neighbors Project and funders. This partnership ensures that two day or three day food packs with meals are sent home with kids on the last day of the school week. In 2016, 5,224 weekend meal packs (equivalent to 23,724 meals total) were distributed to students from Cornville, Sedona, Mayer, Peeples Valley/Yarnell, and the Village of Oak Creek. Expansion in 2017 is will include students from Camp Verde, Cottonwood, and Clarkdale.
Kids Against Hunger: In 2016, the Yavapai Food Council received 44,516 pounds of food (equivalent to 174,890 meals) from Kids Against Hunger to distribute to food-insecure persons across Yavapai County. Community food packing events are sponsored and coordinated throughout the year by Kids Against Hunger. The food packed at these events benefits both local and Haiti hunger-relief programs. Kids Against Hunger is committed to provide a minimum of 50% of the food packed for local distribution by Yavapai Food Council to food banks across Yavapai County.
For more information or to volunteer with a Yavapai Food Council programs, visit www.YavapaiFoodCouncil.org or call (928) 254-8172. To volunteer with the Yavapai Food Neighbors visit www.YavapaiFoodNeighborsProject.org to sign up or call Mike Newcomb at (928) 821-3953 for more information.