Coming Together to Create a Healthier Community

The Sustainable Families Coalition of the greater Sahuarita and Green Valley area presented its report on “Moving from Insufficiency to Self-Sufficiency” on October 30 at Quail Creek. 


Those who attended were invited to become involved to help create a healthier community with a vibrant economy, strong educational systems, ample human services and a physically and mentally healthy population. 


The event featured a keynote presentation by Jon Ford, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Vitalyst Health Foundation, who challenged the participants to think holistically and work collaboratively across the community. He stated, “Mutual trust is the foundation for meaningful results across the usual lines that separate us.” He praised the Coalition for its great work creating a foundation that it could be built upon. 


The Coalition’s strategic projects for the next two years will be:

  • Helping to further expand local behavioral health services, particularly for students and their families and seniors
  • Identifying human services—working to fill gaps as necessary—and making that information and access available across the community (Visit connectgv.org)
  • Partnering to have locally-available workforce development and retention programs in place, for the benefit of both employees and local businesses
  • Bringing together businesses and educational systems to enhance school-to-career linkages and opportunities, such as internship programs


Formed in 2016, the Sustainable Families Coalition has worked to bring together community resources to address issues that prevent children, families and individuals from achieving family and economic stability. 


Members of the coalition include the Town of Sahuarita, the Sahuarita Food Bank and Community Resource Center, the Sahuarita and Continental School Districts, the Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce, the Community Food Bank’s Green Valley and Amado Resource Centers, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, Freeport McMoRan, the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation, The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, United Community Health Center and the Amado Youth Center. 

Market Days Help Put Food on the Table

A 2017 report by the Center for American Progress reported that more than 16 percent of Arizonans live in poverty, earning less than $24,860 for a family of four. That's the seventh highest poverty rate in our nation. Our Market Days provide much-needed groceries to individuals and families who are struggling to put meals on the table.

 

Many of the families we assist look forward to replenishing their groceries during Market Days, held twice weekly from 3-5 p.m. on Thursdays 10-12 p.m. on Saturdays at The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ on La Cañada in Sahuarita.  Here, they can find many of the same items that they would at the grocery store, except all of the food is free. 


The foods usually available during Market Days include: fresh fruits and vegetables; frozen meat; milk and eggs; boxed mixes; canned goods; beans, pasta and rice; spaghetti sauce; fresh baked goods; cereal; peanut butter; and canned tuna and meat. 


If you’re struggling financially and are hungry, we invite you to qualify for food assistance. The process includes a brief application and some required documentation, which includes proof of Arizona residency (e.g. driver’s license, state ID, utility bill, or letter from your landlord), and the names of your family members and their birth dates.


Applicants also will need to sign a self-declaration that they meet the current income guidelines for the number of members in your household, will not sell or exchange the food received, and that you live in the food bank’s service area.


For more information about applying for food help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), visit the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s website.  If you need help with the application process, which can be overwhelming, we can help. You can also find a list of Arizona Self Help agencies that can assist you. 

Help ‘Stuff the Mayflower’ on Nov. 19

Thanksgiving is a time for showing gratitude for all that we have. It’s also an opportunity for us to give to others less fortunate. On Nov. 19, we’d like for you to join us in filling a Mayflower semi-truck full of non-perishable food to benefit all of the local food banks.  


The Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the food drive from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Continental Shopping Plaza with non-perishable food.  The Continental Safeway also will provide $5 and $10 bags of food for purchase, so that even if you’ve forgotten to bring canned and boxes goods you can contribute.


During this event, the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation has organized a “Thanks for Giving” event with more than 25 local nonprofit groups in the plaza sharing information about their services and resources. You can also enter a free raffle for gift baskets at each table and obtain additional raffle tickets with a donation. 


Joe Erceg, CEO of the Chamber and the driving force behind these events, believes that “a healthy and economically prosperous community requires us to help those who are in need of basic services.” 


Come, Stuff the Mayflower and learn about all of our local services. You may even win a gift basket!

From Food Source to Family Table

“We can’t do it without them,” said Sahuarita Food Bank Board Member and one of our founders Jackie Smith. She has witnessed the hustling behind the scenes that makes for grateful faces when a family realizes they’ll have enough food for the week. 


Even though our food bank receives surplus USDA food, federal and state grants and funding from the Town of Sahuarita, it’s still a challenge for us to keep food flowing from these resources to our pantry.


A former Executive Director for Meals on Wheels in her home state of Wisconsin, Jackie and other members of United Church of Christ, which provides the building for the SFB, researched the need for a food bank and created it in 2009. She knew we would have to reach out to the kindness and commitment of community givers, so we rely on a variety of partnerships we have established locally.


Businesses like Pizza Hut, Sprouts, as well as Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, for example, donate about 400,000 pounds of food each year, she said. About 36,000 pounds comes from food drives conducted by faith communities, homeowners’ associations, sports teams, schools, clubs, organizations, and individuals. 


In addition, we buy 60,000 pounds of food, especially staples like rice, beans, flour and peanut butter, with money from grants and donations. Our membership with GAP Ministries of Tucson, a faith-based organization that has grown exponentially over the last 20 years in helping kids and families in a variety of ways, provides about 800 pounds a week. SFB also regularly buys milk and eggs, Jackie said.


“We think it’s very important for them to have protein in their diets.”


Our volunteers get about a half hour to shop twice a week to get food from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, which serves about 400 area agencies. “We pick up whatever they might have there,” she said, but sometimes it’s hit or miss.


More than 20 volunteers drive trucks and a van, load and shop, but often finding enough food is a challenge, especially in summer, a down time for donations, plus that’s growing season when there’s a wait time for fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, this is also the time when the need is greater because kids are out of school and no longer receiving free or reduced-cost lunches.


“You have to go out into the community and ask for more. You have no choice,” Jackie said, “and sometimes it’s just a matter of giving out what we have.”


Still, we manage to successfully serve about 200 families a week, averaging 4.5 members per family during Market Days from 3-5:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Saturdays in our ongoing crusade to fight hunger in our community.


“I think it’s very important,” Jackie said, “to help people survive out there when they have increasing costs for housing and transportation. They shouldn’t have to worry about putting food on the table.”

Donate Turkey Bucks at Safeway During the Holidays

The Sahuarita Food Bank will again benefit from the money raised through the annual Turkey Bucks promotion mid-November until Christmas at the Safeway store on Duval Mine Road. This year’s goal is to surpass last year’s amount and raise $30,000.


A little cheerleading from food bank volunteers and a lot of hustling and compassion from the Safeway employees last year raised $22,000, an essential windfall for food purchases, plus lots of turkeys and fixings, said SFB Operations Coordinator Sue Eaton.


“It helps give us extra products we would normally not buy,” Sue said, especially condiments and other items that enhance the shopping experience for clients.


Each Safeway store manager gets to select a local agency recipient for the corporation’s annual holiday Turkey Bucks and Santa Bucks promotions that encourage customers to buy $1, $5 or $10 Turkey Bucks at the register that are added to their grocery bill and then donated to the store’s local agency of choice. Customers can also ask that their register total be rounded up with the difference going to the fundraiser.


“I wanted to support the community I live in,” said Aldin Puljarja, Duval Mine Road store manager. He connected with Sue Eaton as a Safeway customer and learned that our food bank was challenged to maintain inventory, because it doesn’t receive government help.


“Yes, I felt they were underserved. That’s definitely part of the reason I chose them.”


SFB volunteers will be at the store working two hour shifts on weekends in November to act as cheerleaders each time a customer purchases a turkey buck, passing out cookies and thanks. More volunteers are needed and persons interested in helping can contact Sue at seaton5@cox.net

Donations That Make the Season Bright

Every family looks forward to savoring some of their favorite traditional holiday foods for Thanksgiving.  The Sahuarita Food Bank works hard throughout the year to make sure we have some of those special food items on hand during the holidays.


“All year long we try to set aside certain canned goods just for the holiday, such as sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy,” explains Executive Director Ann Striker. “Unfortunately, we’ve grown so much that we’re unable to offer turkeys. But we also offer many fresh vegetables and a variety of breads.”


But you can help bring some joy to others this holiday season, too. Consider donating some “luxury” items that would be greatly appreciated as a special treat. These might include boxed or pouch mixes for sweet breads, muffins, cookies and cakes, frosting and packets of instant cider or hot cocoa. Stores often have great specials on these items this time of year.


In the fall and winter, families also appreciate foods to make warm, hearty meals, such as pasta with jarred or canned sauces, canned stews and soups, and macaroni and cheese. The best gift of all, however, is money.


“The absolute best donation this time of year really is a financial contribution,” she says. “With your donation, we can purchase items we need and continue to offer important protein items—such as milk and eggs—to clients on every visit.”


One-time, recurring or annual donations may be made through our website. Checks made payable to “Sahuarita Food Bank” also may be mailed or dropped off along with any food donations to The Good Shepherd Church from 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 9-5 on Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon on Saturday. The church is located at 17750 S. La Cañada Dr. in Sahuarita.


How Carole Got Her Smile Back

Two years ago, a woman with a bright smile came in to register for assistance from us. “Carole” was ashamed to ask for help, but had nowhere else to turn.


Carole had a job and was doing fine paying her mortgage and bills and buying groceries. That was until there was a fire at her workplace.


She was receiving unemployment compensation, and her employer assured her they planned to rebuild and reopen. But Carole didn’t see any evidence of that.


She had used up the last of her savings, and feared losing her home, the mortgage for which was almost paid off.  She was worried and had nowhere to turn.


Our volunteer staff provided her with food assistance, and also referred her to Valley Assistance Services. Luckily Carole had found another job, but she wasn’t getting enough hours to pay for her mortgage and still buy food.


Not long ago, Carole stopped in with a big smile on her face. She told us that she had found another job, was doing well and had paid off her mortgage. She was so grateful for our assistance and to again be self-sufficient. 

Give Thanks by Giving

While many of us celebrate with holiday feasts and parties, one out of four children in our community does not have enough to eat—all year long.  Nearly one out of five Arizona residents is at the federal poverty level. 


In November and December, the number of people visiting our food bank increases by 30-50 percent. We have been fortunate to meet that demand in the past with your generosity. Can we count on you again?  


During the holidays, please consider contributing your time, talents and treasure to support our mission of eliminating hunger in Southern Arizona.  


You may drop off donated food at the food bank, located at 17750 S. La Cañada. Financial contributions may be made on our website or by mailing a check made payable to Sahuarita Food Bank, 17750 S. La Cañada Drive, Sahuarita, AZ 85629. You will be nourishing hungry community residents and we thank you!