The goal of Empty Bowl Pet Food Pantry is simple — keep pets in their homes.
In just over a year of existence the group, which gives pet food to families in need, has given away more than 133,000 pounds of pet food in the Phoenix-metro area. All food that comes in to the charity is used within two weeks because the demand is so high.
The group distributes food in two ways. They have what President CJ Anderson calls the “Nine to Five” response that partners with churches, schools and food banks to distribute pet food to families in need. The second way is their emergency response, which provides food and other pet needs to families who have been misplaced because of some sort of disaster. While the group collects mostly food through drives they also accept leashes, collars, dishes, beds and anything else to take care of any household pet.
Anderson said she has helped with large disasters that had very organized efforts to help pets and rescues that were not very organized. Her goal is to make sure any rescue they help with is coordinated and executed well so that the pets can stay with the family and receive the care they need.
“We consider, whether they have a certificate or not, dogs and cats are great therapy animals for their owners during a disaster,” Anderson said. “Many people will do more to take care of their pets during hard times than themselves. Their pets give them motivation to get up and keep going.”
After hearing about the group’s mission and all that they do, it seemed like fate when the Ahwatukee Commons Veterinary Hospital had a booth next to Empty Bowl Pet Food Pantry at the Ahwatukee Dog Show. Jill Foley, practice manager for the pet hospital, said it’s exactly the kind of charity their company was looking to help.
“Our business is keeping pets healthy and part of keeping them healthy is keeping them happy,” Foley said. “In homes is where they will be happiest. I had read up on the organization and it just stuck in my mind and when we had our booth at the Ahwatukee Dog Show, we were in a booth right next door to CJ. I think something brought us together. We’re always looking for an opportunity to do something for the community and give back. We’ve been here since 1988 so we’re a staple in the community and anything we can do is great. We’re blessed with fantastic clients and I know that they are more than willing to give whatever they can. We decided to start with a food drive and it blossomed from there.”
The veterinary hospital collected more than 650 pounds of pet food during a month-long drive in April. Seeing the response and knowing the need, Foley decided to make the hospital a permanent collection site for food for the animals.
For now, until Empty Bowl can find a charity and volunteers in Ahwatukee Foothills to partner with, the food collected at the pet hospital will be taken to Chandler and distributed through a food bank there. Empty Bowl Pet Food Pantry tries to partner with groups across the Valley so that those who need food for their pets don’t have to travel far to get it.
For now the charity does not help livestock, though it’s something they’d like to do in the future. They also don’t help feral cats because their focus is in-home pets.
Anderson said her hope is to encourage more people to reach out to their neighbors and meet the needs in their own neighborhood.
“Disasters happen every day,” Anderson said. “It’s not just the poor that need help sometimes. A diagnosis or a bad accident can be a disaster to that family. I may not be able to feed all the animals but I can feed my neighbor’s pet for a few days. That would help a lot.”
To find out more about the Empty Bowl Pet Food Pantry, visit www.emptybowlpetfoodpantry.org or call (888) 679-1109.
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