Food Bank in Cave Creek
Louie Smaniotto stocks shelves and freezers with donated food at the Foothills Food Bank in Cave Creek. 

Several months ago, most Americans were doing pretty well and living their lives. A lot has changed since then. Eviction requirements have been lifted. Inflation is roaring and that affects people’s ability to purchase fuel, food, pay rent or a mortgage and/or manage a growing family or a senior budget. Times have changed, all right. But with change, comes the opportunity to share with others.

Foothills Food Bank has embarked on a novel effort to reduce barriers to the use of a community food bank and to partner more closely with community members. Foothills Food Bank has always been a valuable resource. Its new programs allow the organization to outreach to more areas instead of having to come to its locations.

“We are working to help neighbors in the communities we serve to receive the nutrition they need by reaching out in new and different ways,” said Leigh Zydonik, executive director for Foothills Food Bank & Resource Center. 

“One of the key changes we are starting to see with the lifting of the eviction moratorium is people with severe rent issues. For example, in Cave Creek alone, costs will force people out of the area due to rising home and apartment costs. Couple rent and mortgage issues with higher gas and food prices and, for many people, a lack of transportation, and times will get tougher. We want to help.”

As a result, the food bank has created numerous sharing programs to better partner with citizens.

“We’re here to bridge the gap because we have good food and want to share it with our neighbors, our friends,” Zydonik said. “Part of the way we are doing this is through mobile distributions, micropantries and Senior Market Day, among other programs.”

Mobile outreach

Mobile distributions are a new way for the food bank to provide more outreach to people who lack transportation. The food bank currently partners with Coolwater Church and soon, with a senior center in New River.

“We bring fresh, healthy food to a community locale so people can drive up and gather the food they need once a month at a set day and time,” Zydonik said.

The food bank is planning permanent micropantries for organizations that can provide access to food in secure locations such as schools, including Canon Elementary School in Black Canyon City. Other community gathering centers include churches, libraries and more within the food bank’s boundaries. Canon Elementary provides access to non-perishable foods and toiletry items. Zydonik said students in affected communities such as Black Canyon City don’t want their peers to know they need food so won’t take free food in front of them.

“Our goal is to implement micropantries in areas where there aren’t enough grocery stores and to help make people comfortable sharing the food we have to offer,” Zydonik said.

Senior partnering program

Foothills Food Bank & Resource Center also has developed a Senior Market Day for people 55 years and older. The food sharing effort will provide seniors with fresh, healthy food.

“We are working with United Way Senior Meals to share wonderful meals with people in our community,” Zydonik said.

“Individuals receive a box with six individually packaged frozen meals for the week. Along with the meals, people can shop for produce, bakery goods and deli items while they’re here. And, we will create boxes with great healthy food options, such as gluten-free, diabetic-friendly foods and more.”

Smaller portion-sized and health-conscious food boxes also will be available. The food bank will work with Foothills Caring Corps in Cave Creek, for example, to provide transportation locally for those who need it.

Zydonik said the food bank also is partnering with other agencies to provide food in their respective communities.

“We love sharing food with others,” Zydonik said.