Yesterday, we were honored to be in Phoenix, AZ for the second stop of our national tour with Walmart and Feeding America to “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” at the local level. Similar to our first stop in Charlotte, NC, we gathered Phoenix neighbors, community leaders, and city officials for an intimate conversation about how we can work together as communities to improve the issue of food insecurity in Phoenix neighborhoods.
In Arizona, over 2 million people (1 in 3 children) struggle with food insecurity every year, meaning they lack consistent access to adequate and healthy food. For some, their status of food insecure is due to their location. Many live in food deserts, which means they live one mile or more away from a store providing healthy food options. For others, the problem of food insecurity is due to a financial strain. Nearly 30% of Arizonans are considered working poor and live on wages that barely cover housing and other basic necessities. If they have the ability to buy food, it is often of low nutritional value or even expired (St. Mary’s Food Bank).
Shannon McBride, a lifelong Arizonan and leader of her 19North community, was our host for yesterday’s gathering and has seen the reality of hunger in Phoenix first hand. Shannon’s 19North community is a racially and economically diverse area of Phoenix, and many of its neighbors face food insecurity every day. Three years ago, while serving as the Pastor of Community Engagement at Open Door Fellowship Church, Shannon founded 19North to unite the community in a shared vision.
As Executive Director of 19North, she aims to build community collaborations to ensure “Every Business Thrives, Every Student Succeeds and Every Neighborhood is Safe.” For Shannon, a key ingredient in helping students and neighborhoods succeed is ensuring all families have access to healthy food on a regular basis.
Given the work Shannon has already been doing to help fight hunger in Phoenix, we were thrilled when she raised her hand and nominated her 19North community to host yesterday’s event. Around the table, Shannon was joined by city leaders including representatives from the local St. Mary’s Food Bank, the City of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services and Environmental Programs, Washington Elementary School District, Valley Metro Community, and many others. Everyone had an opportunity to share how they’ve been impacted by the problem of hunger in Phoenix, and together the table participants brainstormed how they can work together to spark change.
Several ideas emerged from the conversation, including installing food pantries in every local school that would be accessible by students and employees so that no child or adult would have to skip a meal if food was not provided at home. It was inspiring and empowering to see the leaders around the table realize what they could achieve by working together. By the end of the gathering, they all vowed to continue the conversation in the days to come.
As a way to celebrate the progress that was made around the table, we hosted a neighborhood block party yesterday evening with the neighbors of 19North. Over 100 neighbors came out to enjoy tasty food, play games, and ultimately connect with each other. It was a day to remember for all who participated, and we cannot wait to continue the conversation on our next stop in Pittsburgh, PA. Together, we can spark change. See you there!