I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a meeting that involves the Flagstaff Family Food Center (FFFC) and someone (usually me) just assumes it’s located at the Kitchen on Second St. in Sunnyside. That’s where the public can get a hot meal 365 days a year, and it’s often thought that all things FFFC just automatically happen at this well-known location.
After Cristy and I toured their warehouse facility on Huntington Dr., we discovered FFFC is so much more than the amazing Kitchen. The Fundraising and Volunteer Specialist, Kristine Pavlik, gave us a tour, and every time we thought she was done, we’d go around another corner and she’d talk about another program, or another service they provide to feed and care for the hungry in our community.
What struck me most was FFFC’s ability and willingness to jump in and come up with creative solutions to some of the biggest problems facing our community. For
- Many families at Killip Elementary School rely on FFFC’s services, so the two organizations are working together to bring a mobile pantry with fresh produce to the school.
- FFFC works with Frank Branham, the former owner and chef of the Cottage Place, one of Flagstaff’s best restaurants. Frank helps volunteers understand how to decrease waste with produce, and how to salvage produce where parts might be spoiled, but other parts are completely viable. He also provides recipes to FFFC clients, instructing them how to best use produce that is not at its peak, but still full of nutrients.
- FFFC deals with A LOT of cardboard, and so do other business in town. When their drivers are picking up food from the grocery stores, they swing by W.L. Gore to pick up excess cardboard. Back at the shelter, it’s baled and sold, generating about $1,000/month!
- Many people in need of FFFC’s services don’t have access to a kitchen, so they prepare overnight bags with items that don’t need to be heated.
- FFFC is committed to having as much waste as possible. Sometimes, they get produce that is far too past its prime to share with clients. Turns out, this is perfect for farmers to feed their animals. And sometimes, they’ll give FFFC eggs in return. Win-win.
FFFC’s warehouse and kitchen locations both provide vital services to the community. Here’s a breakdown of what happens at each location (hint….awesome things happen at both locations):
Warehouse (3805 E. Huntington Dr.)
- Food Box Distribution: Cristy and I saw firsthand the army of volunteers loading food boxes into cars during pick-up time. Families can get up to five food boxes a month (one from the government, and others from FFFC that serve a variety of purposes. Plus, there’s usually extra items on-hand for clients to grab. On the day we visited it was bread! When we met with Kristine on Jan. 9 she told us they had already distributed 90,000 lbs of food in 2019.
- Flagstaff Shelter Services Partnership: The shelter is located right down the road, and FFFC delivers dinner and breakfast to the shelter each day. Plus, shelter clients can stop by as they head back into town to pick up a snack bag.
- Agency Partnerships: Area non-profits can access a certain area of the warehouse to “shop” on a weekly basis for their clients. FFFC distributes about 500,000 lbs of food a year through this program. In addition, Sharon Manor clients have access to a special area with household and hygiene items.
Kitchen (1903 N. 2nd St.)
- Hot Meal Program: FFFC feeds a hot meal every day at 4:30 to anywhere from 150-280 people.
- Sack Lunch Program: Anyone can stop by the kitchen from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and pick up a sack lunch to take on the go.
- Reading Room: This is one of the gems of the FFFC operation. Children who have their evening meal at the kitchen can head into the Reading Room to work on homework, reading, educational games, etc. Volunteers help with literacy programs, and there are shelves of books for children to take home.
How to Help:
Cash Donations: FFFC is part of the Flagstaff Tax Credit Coalition, so your donation can be matched dollar-for-dollar on your taxes. And, it’s not too late for your 2018 taxes if you donate before April! FFFC is continually trying to meet the needs of northern Arizona, and they’ve added a monthly mobile pantry in Leupp on the Navajo Reservation. There is a greater need than monthly service, and FFFC currently has a grant that covers 50 percent of the cost of a truck to better serve the reservation and other rural communities. Your cash donations will help cover the remaining 50 percent.
Stuff: There is a year-round need for food donations. As Kristine told us, “Hunger lasts all year long.” Many people are inspired to give around the holidays, but that drops off sharply after the new year. FFFC had some scary months from March-May 2018 with empty shelves, and an increasing demand from households. They are committed to being smarter about storing food, but as a community, let’s be committed to helping during those “off months” (even though hunger doesn’t take an off month). Could you work with your school, neighborhood, church group, etc. to organize a spring food drive? Also, the Reading Room is always in need of book and “trinket” donations to give out as prizes for reading.
Volunteer: There are SO many opportunities to volunteer with FFFC. Their biggest need is in emergency food box distribution at the warehouse, and these shifts are harder to fill because they are during the workday (9 a.m. – 1 p.m. for distribution or 9-11 a.m. for packing) and the warehouse location isn’t as family friendly (think: large forklifts buzzing around). Kristine said many employers in town will allow employees to volunteer a certain number of hours per month or year, and this is a great opportunity to fill those hours. Talk to your employer about starting a program! Cristy and I have both volunteered at the Kitchen to serve the nightly meal or in the Reading Room, which is such a rewarding experience. My company also recently did a group volunteer activity where we made sandwiches for the sack lunches at the kitchen. The opportunities for individuals or groups are endless – just find the one that works with your schedule!