TUSAYAN, Ariz. - On Nov. 18 from 12 to 3 p.m., those in need of a few extra grocery items can be found swinging by the parking lot on the north side of Sophie's Mexican Kitchen in Tusayan.
The Tusayan Food Band, sponsored by Sophie's Mexican Kitchen, Stilo Development Group, Big E Steakhouse and Saloon and St. Mary's Food Bank has handed out more than 250 boxes for 861 individuals in the months of November, December and January. Food boxes are handed out based on income and are available the third Wednesday of every month.
"They have to fill out an application and we keep that on file," said Sandy Angat, Tusayan coordinator for the event.
The program is part of St. Mary's Food Bank in Flagstaff. In order to know how much food to provide St. Mary's takes into consideration how much each family makes, how many people are in each household, and if there are children under the age of five. Angat reports to St. Mary's how many families or individuals have requested assistance and St. Mary's pre-packages each box and delivers them to Tusayan.
Angat said the food bank is available to both the Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village communities. She said a food bank has been needed in the community for a long time.
"Especially now, in the winter time since everybody's hours have been cut back," she said. "Most people have two jobs and right now they're cut back to one and some people are working part time instead of two full time jobs."
Since many in both communities do not drive and if they do they have to drive to Flagstaff or Williams, grocery shopping can be a challenge, especially in winter weather conditions.
"When it's snowing it's hard to get down to Flagstaff or Williams to go shopping and the prices up here are ridiculous," Angat said.
St. Mary made their first delivery last November after local business owner, Cecily Maniaci, spoke to St. Mary's about starting a food bank in Tusayan.
"There's 535 residents in Tusayan and I'd say that more than 50 percent of those people are operating at poverty level or below," Maniaci said. "There's absolutely no resources in Tusayan to help anybody so you usually have to go to Flagstaff. Even Williams doesn't have as many resources as it should and I think that's really hard considering the majority of these people don't have any transportation."
St. Mary's needed Maniaci to have a place to store the food and after asking Stilo Development, which rents office space next Sophie's Kitchen if she could use their space for extra storage, the food bank was ready to go.
"I wanted to do this because we all make tons of money up here from tourists and everything and I don't think there is enough given back to this community," Maniaci said. "If this is one small thing that I can do that doesn't cost anything but my time and some other people's time than I think it should be done."
St. Mary's provides non-perishable food items in the boxes like rice, peanut butter, beans, spaghetti sauce and juice. Perishable items like frozen chicken are also donated.
Saint Mary's food bank will be in Tusayan every third Wednesday of the month from 12 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot next to Sophie's Kitchen.
More information about the food bank and eligibility is available from Sandy Angat at (928) 266-2604.