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Phoenix food bank struggling with volunteer, food shortages

(Twitter Photo/St. Mary's Food Bank)

PHOENIX – The ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic are not only hitting restaurants and bars, but food banks as well.

Inventory is down at St. Mary’s Food Bank because of increased demand and so is the number of volunteers at the Phoenix facility as attempts to contain the virus become more stringent.

Tuesday, about 1,000 clients went to the food box distribution center at 31st Avenue and Thomas Road. That was nearly double from the previous day.

“We make 43,000 emergency boxes a month,” spokesman Jerry Brown told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

“We expect that number to jump now with folks out of work and on furlough… and the grocery store situation,” he said, referring to store shelves emptied by hoarding shoppers.

Arizona has 27 cases as of Wednesday morning, the state Department of Health said.

COVID-19 has changed the way the food bank operates internally.

“We’ve seen about a 70% drop,” in volunteers, Brown said.

Federal guidelines require people to avoid the kind of close interaction typical in food packaging and distribution.

“Normally we see about 200 volunteers a day at the food bank. Now it’s around 50,” Brown said.

That leaves staff of about 170 to take on some of the jobs the volunteers had been doing, including putting together food boxes, sorting food, helping clients at the distribution center.

“We totally understand [the drop in volunteers],” he said.

But the domino effect still makes things difficult.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gabriel Gamino and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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