TUCSON (KVOA) - The pandemic has exacerbated the problem of food insecurity in Tucson and across the country. And one demographic often overlooked when talking about the issue is animals.
More and more people consider their pets part of the family and when families hit a rough patch, their pets suffer, too. “It was probably getting close to where I would have to give up one of them and that wouldn’t have been a good thing,” Jeff wants to remain anonymous. Like many Tucsonans, his job was impacted by the pandemic. He says the Southern Arizona Animal Food Bank helped him keep his dog.
"From 30 calls to 150 calls a week that’s the difference in people that we had that lost their jobs," said Donna DeConcini. She founded the food bank in 2014 after she noticed people were leaving their horses tethered to her trailer and not claiming the animals. She says she was also inspired by a rough time in her life. "I just vowed that nobody would ever feel that hopeless of not being able to take care of their animals," she said.
The Animal Food Bank moved into this space at Speedway and Wilmot last December and it’s been busy ever since. DeConcini said the food bank has helped 217 families since the pandemic started.
“We are able to provide for them food so there isn’t a choice of having to take the animal back to the shelter, or to the desert or not be able to feed it or give it their food, the people food,” DeConcini said.
David Zinke is a volunteer with SAAFB. “Generally speaking I process 500 to 1000 pounds per week in terms of donations coming in. We have, we have received over 10 tons, 20,000 pounds of that and we have distributed most of that," he said.
There is definitely a need for services like this in Southern Arizona. “It’s actually a much bigger problem than we realized here in Pima County," said Nikki Reck, Public Information Officer with the Pima Animal Care Center. "We saw folks who really had a need for a bag of food to get by to the next paycheck. "
PACC also offers a food outreach. “For us, it’s a much more cost-effective way of preventing people from having to lose their pets. LIke giving them the bag of dog food is nothing compared to taking the pet in and adopting it out,” Reck said.
DeConcini raises money for the Animal Food Bank through several avenues. The Tucson Food Truck Rally sets up downtown on Tuesdays and Thursdays and donates part of its proceeds the SAAFB. There is also a store in the Monterey Village Shopping Center on Speedway and Wilmot. The store provides space for a group called Artists for Animals to sell their art, and they donate 30% of the proceeds to the food bank. There is also a weekend artisan market on Mt. Lemmon, next to the General Store.
Now that summer is here, donations have slowed down a little at the Southern Arizona Animal Food Bank. If you would like to donate or register to pickup click this link. You can also donate to PACC's program