Photo by Loretta Yerian.
WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Since 2004, the Williams Food Bank has given away three million pounds of food. Last year 190 tons (380,000 pounds) of frozen meats, produce, dairy products, canned goods and dry good commodities were given away to local families in need.
The Food Bank is set up like a small grocery store, with shopping carts and walk in coolers. Patrons visit the store, accompanied by local volunteers, and get to choose the products they will use and leave with a cart full.
“We have 220 to 250 families a month,” said Williams Food Bank Director Guy Mikkelsen.
One of the busiest times of the year for the food bank is Thanksgiving. In 2016, Mikkelsen said around 300 Williams families were provided with meals and extra food. Christmas was similar, although not as busy as Thanksgiving.
During the holiday, families were provided with a grocery cart full of various foods and a holiday meal.
Mikkelsen said there are many local stores that contribute to the food bank every week, and during Thanksgiving and Christmas these stores, along with St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix and local food drives donations, help ensure the bank stays stocked.
Every week the Williams Safeway donates fresh vegetables, dairy and other staples daily to the organization. Mikkelsen also makes a weekly run to Flagstaff where the two Safeways, Bashas and CVS Pharmacy donate several pallets full of food.
“We get about 25,000 pounds of food per month from St. Mary’s,” Mikkelsen said in an interview last month. “But we have other supporters like Hickman Farms who gave us 900 dozen eggs last month.
Mikkelsen also gets wild game donations from Jake’s Mobile Meat processing.
Over the holidays, Dollar General and Williams Elementary-Middle School accepted donations to help stock the food bank’s shelves. Throughout the holiday season Mikkelsen encouraged parents to send canned and boxed food for donation with their children to the school.
Safeway also helped by promoting Turkey Bucks. Customers could purchase $1, $5 or $10 coupons that were used to purchase food for the Food Bank. Customers could also purchase a hunger bag at checkouts. The Food Bank also accepted monetary donations that Mikkelsen used to purchase turkeys.
“The first year we handled about 40,000 pounds of food, and last year we handled 190 tons,” Mikkelsen said. “We appreciate anyone who can help.”
The food bank also helped supply 25, 20- pound turkeys for the Holiday Community Dinner held at Doc Holiday’s restaurant. Around 600 people were served at the holiday dinner.
Additionally, coats are supplied to community members through the Kiwanis Club and are handed out weekly by the food bank. Between three and five hundred coats are donated every winter and are cleaned for free by Ogden’s Cleaners in Flagstaff.
The food bank distributes boxes to families every Friday. Residents can visit the food bank once each month to collect supplies.
“Anyone who comes to us and says they need food, we give food to. The commodities are based on an income guideline,” Mikkelsen said.
Mikkelsen said volunteers are always needed at the food bank. Anyone interested can come to the food bank around 10:30 a.m. daily.
Mikkelsen said incurring donations from stores and St. Mary’s Food Bank is essential to the operation but the real heart of the bank is local participation.
“We couldn’t do what we do without them (St. Mary’s and stores) but food drives and local participation are key to our success. People really give here. There are lots of donations over the holidays and we are able to do whatever we need to do to get the job done,” he said.
Anyone interested in donating food or money can contact Mikkelsen at (928) 635-2913 or drop by the Food Bank at 200 S. 9th St. in Williams. All donations are tax deductible.