Every Tuesday afternoon, Extended Hands Food Bank opens its bay to families in need at 3 p.m.
By 3:25 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, 13 families had stopped in to pick up food supplies for the week.
“Every day, between 25 and 30 families come in,” Pastor David Iverson said, executive director of the local food bank. “It’s becoming normal.”
Now in its 20th year, local families have been coming in droves with extended hands. And while the food bank typically holds four to five months of food supply stored away, only a month and a half of food sits on the nearly bare orange shelves that line the food bank’s single garage bay.
Iverson’s explanation for the uptick in demand and diminished supply is pretty simple: food prices have gone through the roof and many on fixed income are feeling the pinch.
“It’s a lot of elderly on social security or people that are on some kind of assistance that are coming in,” Iverson said. “They don’t have the extra money when food prices go up. They’re sitting here balancing, ‘Do I buy this medicine or do I buy food this month?’”
Dr. PJ Goyal is a retired dentist who volunteers for Extended Hands Food Bank with his wife and mother-in-law. Since he began volunteering in 2019, Goyal said in the past few months, he has seen more people sign up for food assistance than ever before, prompting a rationing of food supply.
“We used to give big gallons of milk. Now we can’t even give gallons of milk anymore. We have to give the small half gallons because that’s what we can afford,” he said.
Roughly half a dozen food bank visitors a week are those living in their cars, according to Iverson.
“In the spring, they come through here on their way up north to the mountains. And then in the fall, at some point in the year, they start coming back through to go to Phoenix for the winter,” Iverson said.
One particular family that stopped in recently told Iverson they had moved in with a second family to save on rent, utilities and other expenses.
Iverson said he saw this coming, especially since the federally funded supplement program, Women, Infants and Children (WIC program) is in jeopardy if Congress decides not to authorize the program.
Another concern for Extended Hands is that local grocery stores have begun tightening their budgets. Ally Rahn, Extended Hands assistant director, said participating grocery stores have been contributing less food supply compared to years past.
For example, a weekly average of 400 pounds of fresh food was donated last month compared to 1,200 pounds donated in September 2022.
Three months ago in July, the food bank received a weekly average of 80 pounds of food supply compared to last July’s 1,000 pounds.
“This is our 20th year…we’ve never run out of food,” Iverson said. “At this point, unless things change, we could run out of food.”
For a list of items needed, Rahn keeps a tally of the top seven items needed on the food bank website, ehfb.org. At the time of this writing, those items include small cereal boxes, fruit, meal in a can, peanut butter and jelly, tomato items, canned beans and cream of mushroom soup.
With the Turkey Drive just around the corner Nov. 7, Iverson is requesting food donations from anyone who is able to give.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the community supporting us. From the town to groups, to individuals,” Iverson said. “They’re the reason that we’re here.”
The Extended Hands Food Bank is located at 16548 E. Laser Drive, Suite 6. It is open Friday, Saturday, and Monday from 9 to 10:45 a.m. and on Tuesdays from 3 to 5:45 p.m. For more information, visit ehfb.org or call 480-837-0303.