Colleen Mattinson would like to see a special version of Christmas in July in Lake Havasu City.
She’s not necessarily looking for cooler temperatures, but she is hoping to witness the giving spirit and generosity that are hallmarks of the winter holiday season.
Mattinson is the manager of the Havasu Community Health Foundation Food Bank. She said the need for food increases every week while the bank’s food inventory has dwindled to dangerously low levels.
“As you can see, the warehouse is depleted,” she said Friday morning as she escorted a visitor to a storage building on the premises. The best case scenario is to have stockpiles of canned goods, pasta other nonperishable food. Instead, the warehouse’s shelves are as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
Explaining how the dire shortage occurred, Mattinson said the nine-month-old food bank is serving more clients than ever.
“We’re up to well over 865 families now,” she said of the monthly food distributions. That calculates to over 2,100 people who rely on the food bank to put food in their bellies. Clients must qualify to receive a monthly food allotment, but there is free food available.
“From 12:30 to 1 (p.m.) every day, you can come in and get free bread and produce,” Mattinson said.
That was the case on Friday morning as volunteers prepared the HCHF Food Bank for an onslaught of clients when the doors opened at 10 a.m. A weekly delivery of food from Phoenix-based St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance was being arranged on tables. The free food was all fresh produce, which is beneficial nutritionally. But there wasn’t enough of it to go around. At the noon hour, every last item from St. Mary’s was gone.
“This is part of the problem,” Mattinson said. “We never know what we are going to get from St. Mary’s. Today it was all produce, which is great, but there were no nonperishables. We need canned goods, pasta, canned meat, vegetables -- things like that.”
She sang the praises of Smith’s, Food City and Albertson’s grocery stores and Big Lots. All contribute regularly to the food bank. Bimbo, a bread distributor, donates all types of breads, buns and muffins.
“The grocery stores give us a lot of dairy – cheese, eggs and milk, but it’s never enough. That’s why we also appreciate cash donations,” Mattinson said. “The donations allow me to order a couple of times a month from St. Mary’s. I can buy food at a greatly reduced price.”
Mattinson planned to place a food order later in the day on Friday. St. Mary’s will deliver the shipment next Friday. She estimates she’s been spending $500 to $1,000 a month from very limited cash reserves to supplement the food bank’s inventory.
She stretches that money as far as any thrifty shopper is able.
“I get milk for $1.25 a gallon,” she said, reading from a St. Mary’s order sheet. “A dozen eggs is 50 cents. So is a can of tuna. A box of mac and cheese is 35 cents. Canned green beans are 28 cents a can. And oh, look -- a can of chicken is 64 cents. I’m for sure ordering some of that!”
Several local businesses and organizations have responded to Mattinson’s cries for help by hosting food drives. Community Presbyterian Church is a host, as well as Planet Fitness, 8 Lotus and Flips for Fun. Cost Cutters is offering $2 off a haircut with the donation of two cans of food.
Mattinson frets that her cash reserves can’t last much longer at the pace she is ordering food.
“I don’t want to have to cut back on how much food our clients get, but if we don’t get some help, it’s what we may have to do,” she said.
She’s hoping to recruit more businesses, charitable organizations and local residents to help solve the food shortage by hosting fundraisers and food drives.
“We’ve been signing up about 75 new households a month,” Mattinson said. “I never want to turn anyone away. But I need some help so we can keep feeding local families in need.”
The Havasu Community Health Foundation Food Bank is at 1980 Kiowa Blvd. It is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Donations are accepted during those hours. For details, call Mattinson at 928-264-1177 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam Ashley can be reached at 928-453-4237, ext. 230 or email@example.com.