Have you ever wondered where your next meal is coming from? An ever-growing number of Americans are facing this challenge. How can we as a community address this issue?
Food-insecurity is defined as a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life. In 2019 studies found one in ten households were food-insecure across the US. As troubling as that is, Yavapai County ranked even worse, with one in three local children being food-insecure along with one in five adults and one in six seniors.
The numbers aren’t out yet for 2020. Because of Covid it’s been estimated that food-insecure homes have increased to more than one in seven. Yavapai County now has a troubling one in two children qualifying as food-insecure.
Many of those in need are working people. They are neighbors, friends, children and seniors. Hunger is not about character, it’s a lack of cash, a full-time job or financial security.
How can a country as wealthy as ours have such a hunger crisis? We do have enough food to go around, but it’s estimated that 40% of our food is wasted, mostly sent to landfills. That’s a lot of food! It might be produce with cosmetic flaws or that’s too old, food past its sell-by date but still edible, or food a business receives by mistake.
The federal government offers SNAP benefits (food stamps) to those who qualify (healthearizonaplus.gov). Still, many in need can’t qualify to receive these benefits or they receive so little that they still cannot reach the level of food security.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental food (azdhs.gov/prevention/azwic).
Some may lack awareness of food-assistance programs or the computer skills necessary to enroll in these programs online. For those who do get this assistance, the amounts allotted certainly don’t keep up with inflation. Thankfully others have joined in to help.
One such place is Real Hope, based in Prescott Valley. It started in 2019 when truck driver Daniel Carrillo noticed loads of food going to waste. He started asking the companies he delivered for if he could give it to people in need. They were happy to agree.
Believing in helping out, Daniel and his wife Mercie started Real Hope Inc. to give back to the community. They are fully nonprofit and financed through donations. There is a lot to cover, as Daniel has a big rig that requires fuel, maintenance and insurance. He also has smaller trucks for smaller loads. All this adds up. The couple is able to keep costs down thanks to volunteers who help organize and pass out boxes. They also do fundraisers, including garage sales.
On distribution days the organization sets up traffic cones with signs to guide folks to where the boxes are handed out. It’s obvious the volunteers are happy to be there, smiling and laughing. Everyone has a job to do and they work together well. Says Daniel; “We’ve become like a family.”
As you drive up, you get a friendly hello and asked how many boxes you’d like to have. “We believe in operating out of trust. If someone comes through and they say they need more than one box, we trust they do. We don’t judge anyone who comes through.” As we talk, Daniel shows me the line of cars and continues, “Some come through with new cars, others are beat up and old. It doesn’t matter. They are all here to get their needs filled, and we want to help them.”
Daniel says he is frequently asked whether Real Hope is religious. “We’re not a religious group. Just people caring for people,” he says.
The community gives back, too. Recently Real Hope received a warehouse as a donation. They are working on getting it ready and plan to use it as a base of operations.
The Carrillos change distribution locations to reach as many people as possible. The best way to know when and where a delivery will come is to keep up on the organization’s Facebook page, Real Hope Inc.
To donate money, fuel or other items to help them get their warehouse up and running, you can reach out to Daniel at 928-848-3232 or email email@example.com.
Other local groups
Prescott Farmers Market: Saturdays now through Oct. 30, 7:30am-noon. Double Up is a program where any SNAP recipient can double their benefits for fresh produce, with no limit. PFM also offers its Farmers Market Nutrition Program, providing low-income seniors with $50 worth of produce. WIC is a program they also support with $30 worth of coupons in $5 increments. Bring your SNAP or WIC coupons to the information booth to get started. Dignity Health YRMC MillerValley Lot, 900 Iron Springs Rd., Prescott, firstname.lastname@example.org
Solid Rock Baptist Church Reach Out Program: Monday evening dinners 4-5pm; Thanksgiving food boxes yearly. 114 Union St., Prescott; Ministry Director Patty Rummage, 928-925–3135
Prescott Seventh-day Adventist Church: Free food bank Thursdays 10-noon. 2980 Willow Creek Rd, Prescott, 928-778-0289
Saint Vincent de Paul: Food boxes as needed, call to schedule a pickup or dropoff. They also may help with financial aid, rent or utilities. 120N. Summit St., Prescott, 928-778-1297
Commodity Senior Food Program through St Mary’s Food Bank. 937 Ruth St., Hillside Church of God, Prescott; Bob Heath; Call 928-442-5562 or 928-771-3138 to schedule a time to pick up your food box. Ages 60+. Need photo ID and proof of residency.
Emmanuel Lutheran Church: Second and fourth Fridays, 11–12:30pm, two free take-out meals monthly. Walk up to door or wait and a volunteer will come out to ask how many meals you need. 7763 E. Long Look Dr., Prescott Valley; Mary, 928-772-4135, email@example.com
The Salvation Army: Mon-Fri 9–5; choose a prepared food box or visit the pantry and pick out what you need. Provide proof of address and ID. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they offer food pickups at local grocery stores 1–2pm. Each person is allowed a specified amount of items. No verification needed. 231 S. Montezuma St., Prescott, 928-778-0150; contact Shona at shona.heineman@usw. salvationarmy.org.
Yavapai County Food Bank: Food-box distribution Tuesdays and Wednesdays 3-5pm, Thursdays and Fridays 1-3pm. Fill out an application form and bring IDs for everyone who will go on your card, as well as proof of income and address. If you do not have all this information and need food, please bring what you have to the office to qualify. The office is open Mondays 8–1, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8–5, and Thursdays and Fridays 8–3. 928-775–5255, 8866 E. Long Mesa Dr., Prescott Valley
Yes, we have a lot of hungry people in our area, but with good neighbors like the Carrillos and the other organizations in the Prescott area reaching out to help our hungry population, we can hope that those numbers will decrease over the coming year. Volunteers are both welcome and needed in any of these organizations.