AZ Giving and Leading: Summer Food Needs

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During the summer months, the need for emergency food supplies is affected by kids being out of school. St. Vincent de Paul has come up with a way to help the thousands of struggling families and the homeless. The campaign is called “Be a Summer Action Hero” and the effort encourages people to donate food and money to help St. Vincent de Paul. Shannon Clancy, development director for St. Vincent de Paul, and Beverly Damore, President and CEO of St. Mary’s Food Bank, will discuss efforts to keep people fed during the summer months.

Ted Simons: St. Vincent DePaul has a new campaign to help feed the hungry during the Summer. The campaign is called Be A Summer Action Hero, and it encourages donations of food and money. Shannon Clancy, development director for St. Vincent DePaul, and Beverly Damore, President and CEO of St. Mary's food bank join us to discuss efforts to keep people fed during the Summer months. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. Be A Summer Action Hero -- explain, please.

Shannon Clancy: Absolutely, well, we set up the Be A Summer Action Hero campaign really to get the word out and raise awareness: So, we're grateful to you for having us here today to talk about it, about the Summer need in Arizona. I think often with hunger issues people think about them, we all think about them during the holiday season, but right here in Arizona when it gets hot and our electricity bills go up and kids don't have access to food programs through schools, families' budgets get really tight. And there are more and more struggling families that come to us for help.

Ted Simons: And when those electricity bills go up, families have to make a choice, don't they?

Beverly Damore: Absolutely, all the time, we see with it our clients, as well. Daycare costs our up because kids are out of school. Food prices continue to go up. So everything is a stretch.

Ted Simons: I notice donations seem to drop in the Summer, as well. First of all, is that true? And secondly, why?

Beverly Damore: Well, most of our donors are out of town. So, they're lucky enough to be able to escape the hear. They go down. Like Shannon said, we are just generally not top of mind during the Summer time like we are during the holidays. But the flip side to that is our demand is the highest during the Summer. So, we actually distribute more pounds of food than we do during the holidays.

Ted Simons: And I would imagine as well that businesses in the summertime are cutting hours and maybe cutting staff, as well. Those folks may need some help. They might be employed, but they're underemployed and might need some help.

Shannon Clancy: Absolutely, you know, I think sometimes too families that can do just fine during other times of the year just have a rough time at this time. They are making very, very hard choices. Do I pay the rent? Do I put food on the table? Do I pay that utility bill to keep the AC? Or do I buy diapers for my child and take them to the doctor.

Ted Simons: Have you seen the Summer months more critical during the year? What have you been seeing?

Shannon Clancy: You know, we do. I would agree with Beverly, we see the need really extreme during the Summer. And like she said, we really aren't aware of it as a community. We've done a nice job in this community to pay attention to heat relief efforts. Over the last few years when we had people dying on our streets, we've come together as a community to mobilize and have water drives and cities have come together to make sure people can stay safe. We need that same effort for Summer food relief and for families. And part of that is awareness. When we talk about it, people say, I hadn't thought about how kids wouldn't have access to food or childcare costs would go up. But now that I'm thinking about it, yes, tell me how I can help.

Ted Simons: How can people help? What are you looking for as far as donations are concerned, anything specific or unusual perhaps?

Beverly Damore: One of the things we're going to be looking at is we're getting real close to there not being a whole lot of fresh produce during the late part of the Summer. So, we're trying to do a really good job of stockpiling cans of fruits and vegetables right now. It's maybe not an ideal replacement, but at least it's something. August and September are probably the toughest months for us. But time, too, Shannon and I were commiserating a little bit before we came in that our volunteers drop a lot because everybody's out of town. So, we are so reliant on volunteers to come in and help build the emergency food boxes that go out into the community.

Ted Simons: And folks can actually host their own food drives, can't they?

Beverly Damore: Oh, we love that.

Ted Simons: How does that work?

Beverly Damore: For us, you can go to our website, which is, and we have kind of a how-to on there. But food drives are great. It tends to be the good kind of staple pantry food that we all have. That is key to us to make a core box to give out.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, we don't really think donate food, donate a can of this a can of that, but you need healthy food, you need proteins in there, don't you?

Shannon Clancy: Absolutely, we very much need proteins, fruits and vegetables, the things that are going to keep kids healthy. And sometimes we don't get those, so those items are really important. So, we do. We need people to host food drives, maybe not thinking about that as much during the Summer, but we need that. We need volunteers. We need donations. At St. Vincent DePaul, our mission is to feed, clothe, house and heal people. People who are struggling with food are struggling with rent payments or maybe need help with utility payments. Those donations help our volunteers who go into homes to help families and determine how they can meet their needs, they can help them directly.

Ted Simons: And is it

Shannon Clancy: We've actually set up a special website, People can go there, make donation, sign up to host a food drive or link right to our volunteer page and find out how they can help.

Ted Simons: And again, yours was?

Beverly Damore: It's

Ted Simons: Okay. Regarding the Be A Summer Action Hero campaign, how does this differ from other campaigns? I'm curious in the marketing aspect. What are you thinking? How does this kind of thing get developed?

Shannon Clancy: You know what, here's what we were thinking. One, we always have big releases of superhero movies in the Summer. But I think the issue is that everyone thinks to solve a problem like hunger in our community that you have to be a superhero, you have to save the world and do all this. The message we want to send is that we can all be that superhero. Part of it is just to harness that power of compassion that we have. Instead of trying to help the whole world, we just help the person in front of us. That's the motto we use at St. Vincent DePaul. We're inviting everyone to be a part of it. All they have to do is make a donation of food, some money, setting up a food drive and coming in and giving up a few hours. And all of those efforts coming together is what makes a difference in the community. We've done it in heat relief and we can do it in food relief for families.

Ted Simons: And again, as the President and CEO of a major food bank here, the concept of marketing and the concept of getting your message out, what are the challenges there?

Beverly Damore: Well, it's important. I think I wanted to piggy back a little on what Shannon was saying. I think it's important for people to understand, hero is a great term. Because we are efficient organizations, at Saint Mary's you can donate a dollar and it's enough to provide seven meals. So people don't have to go out and spend months planning a food drive. A little effort goes a long, long way. In terms of marketing, I think at Saint Mary's we're lucky. We're getting close to celebrating our 50th anniversary. We've got good name recognition. We're a good organization that does exactly what it should, but we are constantly working to stay on top of mind.

Ted Simons: I would imagine. Well, congratulations on Be A Summer Action Hero. Hopefully you'll get some Summer action heroes to donate. Good to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us.

Shannon Clancy: Thank you so much.

Ted Simons: And thursday on "Arizona Horizon," we will try to find out why Arizona's job numbers trail the national job recovery rate. And we'll see how a teacher is showing very young children how to write computer code, that's Thursday evening at 5:30 and 10 on "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Shannon Clancy:Development Director, St. Vincent de Paul; Beverly Damore:President and CEO, St. Mary's Food Bank;

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