Six months in, Health Foundation Food Bank serves over 600 families

April 4, 2019

At six months old, the Havasu Community Health Foundation Food Bank has quickly matured into a bustling operation that distributes food to hundreds of families and individuals who would otherwise go without.

Health Foundation Director Linda Seaver couldn’t be happier.

“We’re up to well over 600 families now,” she said of the monthly distributions.

The start-up established by the health foundation was created to fill a wide gap when Interagency collapsed due to lack of funding in June 2018. Interagency operated the oft-used Community Food Bank that served a reported 400 to 700 households a month at its peak.

While many Community Food Bank clients migrated to other area free food providers in the interim, Seaver believes most of those clients have returned and are now being served by the HCHF Food Bank.

Those familiar faces are enjoying a novel experience at the HCHF Food Bank.

“We don’t just hand out boxes of food. We set up the distribution area like a grocery store so clients can ‘shop’ with a cart and get their food in a dignified way. They choose what they want,” she said.

The new format was the brainchild of HCHF President Ben LaParne, food bank Manager Colleen Mattinson and Seaver. The plan allows for consideration of one’s food preferences and it eliminates waste.

“Why give a bag of rice in a food box if a client won’t eat it? It’s better to let them select what they want,” Seaver said.

Mattinson agreed. “I don’t believe in making choices for people,” she said, noting that clients appreciate the new approach.

While the food bank is always in need of food, it also will soon have a shortage of volunteers. Winter visitors, high school students and those who need to perform community service make up the food distribution team. Mattinson praised the volunteers, but also fretted that summer means she’ll have a manpower problem.

“The kids are out of school, the winter visitors go home and yet I have all these families we need to serve. In March alone, we signed up 63 new households. I need volunteers. I really do,” she said. From stocking shelves before the food bank opens to sorting donations to helping clients load food in their cars, there’s a job for everyone.

“I need help and I’m not picky. Come in and tell me what you’d like to do, and we’ll figure out a way to make that happen,” Mattinson said. As manager, she has the only paid position at the facility.

Clients must qualify to receive a monthly food allotment, but there is free food available.

“From 12:30 to 1 (p.m.) every day, you can come in and get free bread and produce,” Mattinson said. The food bank also has free emergency boxes for those who are passing through Havasu and find themselves in dire straits.

“Never would anyone ever enter the food bank and leave without food,” she said.

The Havasu Community Health Foundation Food Bank is at 1980 Kiowa Blvd. It is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Donations are accepted during those hours.

Pam Ashley can be reached at 928-453-4237, ext. 230 or pashley@havasunews.com.