Hunger may seem like a problem only faced far away, but local churches say it’s a problem right here in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Recently, churches in the area that have food pantries have gotten together to discuss the issue and find ways they can help one another. There are several food pantries in the area, but each has different procedures for picking up and distributing food.

“The plan is to set up cooperative work between the pantries,” said the Rev. Leland Armbright, associate pastor at Mountain View Lutheran. The church began partnering with newLife Church years ago when they realized they were serving a lot of the same population, but just offering different types of food. Their partnership made sense to be able to provide families a variety of fresh and canned foods from one location at newLife Church.

The pantry has a relationship with St. Mary’s Food Bank, which coordinates pickups for food pantries from grocery stores across the Valley. Armbright said sometimes the assignments their volunteers get from St. Mary’s aren’t the most efficient. For example, newLife volunteers pick up leftover food from a Trader Joe’s at Guadalupe and McClintock when there’s a Trader Joe’s location in Ahwatukee Foothills.

The goal of the newly-formed group, which consists of representatives from local churches, the Kyrene Resource Center, Ahwatukee community gardens, and other community leaders looking to expand services offered in neighboring communities, is to work together to identify businesses that do have food available for hungry families and ensure each individual food pantry in the area has the supplies they need to meet the needs they serve.

“I’m very excited about the group,” said Stephanie Alvarez-Moore, who helps operate the food pantry at St. Benedict. “We’re working together to solve a problem that affects everyone in Ahwatukee. We find innovative ways of making sure everyone is taken care of one way or another… There’s a lot of strength in numbers.”

The pantry at St. Benedict receives most donations from parishioners, local student groups and the Knights of Columbus. The food pantry is always in need of more donations and Alvarez-Moore said she’s hoping working with others in the community will raise awareness of the need.

There’s a great need for toiletries, peanut butter, jelly, spaghetti sauce, hearty soups, canned meat, rice and dry beans. Local food pantries are always willing to pick up leftover food from restaurants or grocery stores.

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