The cost of living is at an all all-time high, from rent and utilities to fuel and food. As the price of groceries soar, local food banks are feeling the strain and anticipate back to school expenses next month being especially difficult on families who are already stretched financially.
In response, Larry H. Miller Dealerships announced its second annual Food Fuels Learning campaign in partnership with two of Arizona’s largest food banks, St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Tucson.
Larry H. Miller Dealerships’ Food Fuels Learning campaign, part of the group’s Driven for Good initiative, is aimed at helping children head back to the classroom with the food they need for academic success. It will support the Backpack Program at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, which provides chronically hungry children with a weekly food bag to help their families through the weekend.
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s School Pantries Program in Tucson also works to alleviate childhood hunger by providing resources to low-income families via food pantries at convenient locations.
Both programs are vital for school performance among children across the state and both need more support as the demand for food assistance resources increases.
“The rising cost of fuel, food, and housing is a real concern and impacts us all,” said Pat Kroneberger, senior vice president of operations, Larry H. Miller Dealerships. “While many people are feeling the financial pain when filling up their empty tanks at the gas station, sadly, many children are feeling the hunger pangs of empty stomachs. Families are grappling with how to put food on the table and childhood hunger is a very real issue in Arizona with one in six children facing hunger, according to Feeding America. Our company is focused on uplifting the community, especially the health of our children, and we hope this month-long drive will help fill a gap at the local food banks.”
Through Aug. 18, Larry H. Miller Dealerships is encouraging its employees and the public to help fill a vehicle at each of its 12 dealerships across Metro Phoenix and Tucson with nonperishable food items to help children go back to school with the proper food and nutrition.
There is one Larry Miller dealership in Surprise,
Larry H. Miller Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Surprise at 13165 N. Autoshow Ave.
Some of the most needed items include bottled water, peanut butter, cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, rice, beans, pasta, and canned meats (tuna, chicken, and beef).
Rising food costs have greatly impacted the communities served by both food banks. In just one week earlier this summer, St. Mary’s Food Bank had nearly 5,000 families visit its Phoenix and Surprise locations alone, and the organization expects to see an increase in visiting families when children return to school. The food bank is also finding it harder to locate certain items like canned food, meat, and proteins due to rising prices and supply chain problems.
“Rising food costs have nearly doubled the number of families we have seen at the food bank, compared to this time last year,” said Jerry Brown, director of public relations, St. Mary’s Food Bank. “When children head back to school, we want to be prepared and keep our pantries stocked. Larry H. Miller Dealerships and the Food Fuels Learning campaign is well-timed and will impact St. Mary’s just as our afterschool and weekend assistance programs become an even more important lifeline to families who are struggling.”
Families facing hunger need additional meals to get by during the weekends and heavily rely on programs such as the Backpack Program at St. Mary’s Food Bank. Backpacks are filled with non-perishable items that provide at least three nutritious meals to a family of four. St. Mary’s currently collaborates with more than 120 schools and community centers to provide about 7,000 backpacks per week to families across the state.
The “Food Fuels Learning” campaign will culminate on Aug. 19, when a caravan of Larry H. Miller Dealerships vehicles stuffed with non-perishable food will deliver the donations to the food banks. Monetary donations can also be made to support the Food Fuels Learning campaign and St. Mary’s Food bank here.