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'I’ve never seen it as high as this': AZ food banks are still seeing record demand

As the holidays approach, Arizona food banks report they are continuing to see record demand from families in need.

A couple years ago,  Valley View Community Food Bank in Sun City would typically serve 600 to 700 people per day. But the food bank's director, Jesse Ramirez, told KJZZ News lately, about 1,000 people per day have been seeking help.

"We're not a large food bank, so those numbers are very high for us," Ramirez said. “I’ve been in this industry for 37 years, and throughout all the years, I’ve never seen it as high as this, especially for people over 55." 

The state’s largest food bank,  St. Mary’s, also reports it has seen demand spike more than 60% year over year.

"We're waiting for the peak, we're waiting for the high mark," said Jerry Brown, St. Mary's director of public relations. "We’re in times that are different from any other in the past.”

Brown said lines at St. Mary's Food Bank's locations have been getting longer and longer since the spring, as more Arizonans struggle with high prices on rent, gas and groceries.

But Brown said inflation is having an impact on the food bank’s operations, too.

“Your box of macaroni and cheese that was 40 cents is now 60 cents. And when you’re buying those in thousands, or tens of thousands, that really adds up really quickly,” Brown said. 

Both Valley View and St. Mary’s say they are still able to feed all of the families seeking help this season.

"We haven't had to turn anybody away. That's our goal," Ramirez said. 

But both food banks report they could use more donations and volunteers.

→  More older Arizona adults are food insecure — and they're turning to food banks for help

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.