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Due to COVID-19, many organizations are responding to rising needs. Among them is United Food Bank in Mesa, who is a member of the Feeding America network.

In March, they held food distribution events weekly where they served 542 households and 1,670 individuals and distributed 20,677 pounds of food, averaging 34 pounds of food per household. But when you flash forward to the week of May 4, they held two days of distribution, served nearly 2,400 families, more than 9,000 individuals, and provided over 116,000 pounds of food averaging 50 pounds per household.

Organizers say in addition to changing their distribution from one day a week to two days a week, they also had to purchase $2.2 million of food. The purchase was due to the decrease in food rescue from the grocery stores and food drives canceling.

United Food Bank is also finding that donors who have lost their jobs are not donating, and potential donors who are concerned about the future are not giving. They lost their large group volunteers due to the pandemic.

But one veteran is staying his course as a volunteer at the United Food Bank because he knows his service is making a difference.  Cedric Dave is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served during Vietnam.  He says he can see the similarities between his service in Vietnam in comparison to what is happening with the pandemic.

“I think back to my days in Saigon when we were often confined to base and or shelter in place in light of a potential attack or missiles being launched at us. The focus was being aware of your surroundings, being focused on the mission, and remembering your training.  These things allowed us to develop a set routine and consistently adhere to that. For me, I knew what was expected and what to do while locked down,” he said.

With all the changes, United Food Bank’s CEO, Dave Richins, is trying to ensure their community has the support they need while keeping the public health safety guidelines in mind.

“There is some stress in hoping that our staff, volunteers, and supporters stay healthy. We are doing everything we can under the CDC guidelines to keep our workplace safe. Being on the frontlines is no easy task, but we are doing some amazing things and seeing miracles,” he said.

Although they are facing changes, organizers say if you need help, come to their twice-weekly (Wednesdays and Fridays) distribution events at the Mesa Convention Center to receive it. If you can give, they need it to help them continue to operate at this expanded level. You can visit unitedfoodbank.org online to donate or volunteer.

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