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Every Friday, more than 2,000 school children from low-income families in the Southeast Valley are discreetly given a backpack of food to ensure they have enough to eat during the weekend so they’ll return on Monday nourished, alert and ready to learn. The backpacks are provided by Arizona Brainfood, which is supported by Mesa United Way and a number of local businesses and philanthropic organizations.

The staff of Arizona Brainfood regularly receives calls and letters of thanks from parents, teachers and acquaintances, who often explain how the welcome extra food has improved the lives of youngsters. Here is a letter the staff received last year from a Mesa man:

“Behind my office lives a small family. They were homeless until my employer set them up in a trailer. They have a little girl, ‘Mary,’ who is about 6 years old.

“From time to time, Mary and her dad will come into the office and say hello. She is typically very shy and doesn’t say much. Her dad always encourages her to be polite and say hello to me, which she usually does, reluctantly.

“A while back, she came into the office with her dad and, as usual, was asked to say hello. She did, in her typically shy way. Then, just as she turned to walk down the hall, she turned back around, and in an excited voice, burst out, ‘Guess what I got!’ I was not sure, so I said ‘what?’ She looked at me in a bright and unusually excited way and said, ‘I got Brainfood!’

“It took me a second to process what she had said, and then I realized what she was talking about. She was ecstatic.

“Your efforts obviously make a difference in others’ lives, and it was my pleasure to see your efforts brighten this little girl’s life and lift her. I am sure there are countless similar stories out there, but this was the first time I had seen her this way.”

Arizona Brainfood is one of 28 charitable organizations that receive funding from Mesa United Way. To read more “Faces of Need - and Hope” stories, and to help, please visit To learn more about Arizona Brainfood, visit

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