Based on 2010 gathering results, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Arizona’s 2011 population was 6,482,505. Of those, the bureau estimated that 25.1% were under the age of 18 and 6.9% were under the age of five. Too many of these Arizona children are living in households where putting food on the table is a daily struggle for their parents.
Is Life Ever a SNAP?
Arizona’s Dept. of Economic Security (DES) is the state administrative agency responsible for the federal food stamp program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The DES confirmed that more than half of all food stamp recipients in our state are children.
(Technically, as of 2008 we stopped referring to the decades old program of federal financial help with groceries and staples as the “Food Stamp Program.” First, the program hasn’t distributed stamps for some time. Second, “nutrition assistance” (NA) was meant to free recipients from any stigma associated with getting benefits due to difficult financial circumstances.)
But here’s the rub. Over the past four years, enrollment for SNAP food stamps has doubled in Arizona. Now there are about 1.1 million in our state receiving supplemental food assistance from the federal government. That’s about 18% of Arizona’s population. Some put that number as high as 20%.
Need for Help Is Challenging Phoenix Area Food Banks
The holidays will ring in a New Year and more hunger, as area food banks find their coffers emptied as more individuals seek help with the task of feeding themselves and their families.
On the front lines, the Association of Arizona Food Banks’ (AAFB) President/CEO Ginny Hildebrand couldn’t hide her concern for Arizona’s struggling families: “We need to pay attention to the fact that we’ve got that many children living in homes that are poverty stricken.” The AAFB was created in 1983 out of the Maricopa County Emergency Food Coordination Project.
Robert F. Evans, Jr., is the CEO of United Food Bank (UFB) on S. Nina Drive in Mesa which has also been providing food to Arizona families in need since 1983. Evans says the federal SNAP program is too big in Arizona because families simply “ain’t got enough” money to cover their basic needs. He’s in a position to know. By the end of 2012, the UFB will have distributed almost 20 million pounds of food to more than 250 area organizations and agencies. And that’s primarily for only five of Arizona’s counties. Evans has witnessed the demand for UFB’s distribution services increase as much as 70% in the last few years. Although the food bank is credited with many successes, UFB is currently unable to satisfy the existing demand for its services, under-serving area needs by approximately 25%.
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