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St. Mary's Food Bank faces growing crowds as inflation puts pressure on Arizonans

Nearly a thousand families lined up outside a single St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix on Tuesday, and even more are expected Wednesday.

Jerry Brown is the director of public relations at St. Mary’s. He says the start of summer usually results in more people in line for food assistance when school meal programs end. But this year, he says, the daily waiting lines are already reaching unusually high numbers that have not been seen since the peak of the pandemic.

“To give you an idea, at the height of the pandemic last year, we were feeding about 1,200 families, and now we’re topping 1,000 for the first time since then," Brown says.

Brown says inflation is one of many factors making food less affordable to families struggling with rising prices. Combined with supply side issues and the end of pandemic assistance from the federal government; Brown says he's left with fewer resources and just as many mouths to feed.

"Two years ago, we had the National Guard out here helping us distribute food. Right now, our volunteers are very low. We normally need 35 people to do the job — today we had six out there this morning," he says.

Athena Ankrah is an assistant producer for KJZZ's The Show.Ankrah graduated from Arizona State University in 2023 with a bachelor’s in journalism and a second degree in Chicano media and expressive culture.Before accepting a national student Edward R. Murrow award for Radio Feature Reporting in 2023, Ankrah began their broadcasting career in high school, where they hosted a monthly Teen Talk radio show.Originally from Peoria, Arizona, she enjoys singing in her car and tending to their beloved houseplants.