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Yavapai Food Council has been helping those who are food insecure in a variety of ways and the numbers for 2016 are in.

Executive Director Amy Aossey sent out a report detailing the council’s accomplishments.

A total of 345,715 meals were distributed countywide. The nonprofit achieved this number working with volunteers in the community, faith-based organizations, schools and donors.

“The tremendous impact toward hunger prevention over the last few years is a testament to what can happen when a nonprofit has dedicated volunteers, generosity of donors, respected partnerships with grant funders and a amazing and committed staff,” Aossey said.

The council operates several projects that collect and distribute this food. They operate the Bountiful Kitchen, which serves breakfast and lunch at two Verde Valley schools. In 2016, the program packed 14,732 meals. According to the report, Bountiful Kitchen prepares, packs and delivers the meals to schools that have more than 50 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced meals.

The kitchen operates with volunteers and also has an internship program for college students going into the hospitality or restaurant management fields. The program uses 90 percent of its funds on its meals.

American Heritage Academy in Cottonwood and Camp Verde receives meals from the program and Desert Star Community School is expected to join.

There is also the Food Neighbors Project, a local part of a national food drive effort. On the second Saturday of even-numbered months, the project holds a green bag drive. Volunteer neighborhood coordinators in each town bring in green bags collected from donors door-to-door. Donation drop-off sites are also set up. The food is then distributed to local food banks and pantries. For 2016, the project collected 100,156 pounds of food, all shelf-stable, the equivalent of 83,463 meals.

In addition to the Bountiful Kitchen program, the council also operates the Weekend Meals for Students program. Drawing from food banks, two- and three-day meal packs are collected and given to students in need for the weekend. A total of 5,224 packs, or 23,724 meals, were sent out. Current schools in the program are from Cornville, Sedona, Mayer, Peeples Valley/Yarnell and the Village of Oak Creek. The program is expecting to expand into Camp Verde, Cottonwood and Clarkdale.

The Kids Against Hunger gave 44,516 pounds of food, equivalent to 174,890 meals, to the council in 2016. The program also assists Haitian hunger programs but all work done in the county is guaranteed to keep at least half of food distributed within the county.

“I believe it is our responsibility at Yavapai Food Council to be aware and understand challenges facing the emergency food providers — food banks, child hunger programs, and community meals — in our county and to develop programs that impact these challenges. It’s all about a positive yes we can attitude at Yavapai Food Council, sometimes mixed with a lot of creativity,” Aossey said.

The council also operates a SNAP food assistance program, where information on qualifications and a computer to aid in applying is provided at the Sedona office.

The council works to end food insecurity and hunger. It defines food insecurity as not knowing where future meals will come from.

“As we move into 2017, many of us in the emergency food industry are watching government programs such as SNAP, USDA hunger relief programs such as Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program and the free and reduced price National School Breakfast and Lunch programs closely,” Aossey said. “If new government policy leads to higher inflation, we will surely see more individuals relying on emergency food resources. And if we do see the emergency food lines grow, the government resources that have been available in the past may not be available according to some of the new administration’s political talking points, resulting in more need and less resources.  It will be imperative that organization’s like Yavapai Food Council continue to support and partner with those who are directly feeding the hungry.”

For more information on the Yavapai Food Council, including how to volunteer, call 254-8172 or visit the council’s website. The office is located at 2020 Contractors Road Suite 6 in Sedona. Call Mike Newcomb at 821-3953 for more information on the Yavapai Food Neighbors project.


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