BULLHEAD CITY — The weather was not a big issue as WOW Mobile Food Pantry gave away free food to people Friday at Rotary Park.
Thanks to the shade of a large ramada and an occasional breeze, it wasn’t boiling hot, even though temperatures reached triple digits. Organizers and volunteers literally beat the heat by having the distribution lines open a bit earlier than scheduled.
The food that was distributed was donated by the Saint Mary’s Food Bank Alliance out of Phoenix.
According to Betty Rae, WOW executive director, a couple of hours into the food giveaway they already had given food to 300 families and they were expecting to see around 500 families by the end of the scheduled three-hour session.
“We were able to open a little earlier than what was scheduled today,” said Rae.
The Bullhead City Recreation Division donated use of the large ramada near the sports fields at Rotary Park so the event could take place in the shade.
“We have a lot of great items here today from organic produce, bread, eggs and a lot more,” said Rae. “Instead of making their package, we allow them to come and grab what they want because, at the end of the day, they know what they eat in their family.”
Rae said that even though people get to choose what they want, they can’t take as much as they want.
“What we give to the people is very fair and equal, which is based on the size of family that they are,” said Rae. That allows the food initiative to serve more people.
The farmers market-style food distribution program provides healthy, nutritious food to consumers free of charge. The food is “imperfect” — some produce is misshaped or has bruises or blemishes that would cause it to be rejected by retail outlets. The produce, passed over by distributors and retailers, finds its way to the Food Bank Alliance, where it is distributed across the state to participating agencies.
WOW stands for “without waste” — the idea that as long as the food is fresh and clean, it can feed recipients who otherwise might not have access to produce or other items.
A community assessment by the Western Arizona Council of Governments in 2016 indicated that 17% of people in Mohave County had limited access to healthy foods while 19% were unable to access food at least once during the past year.
It’s a daunting endeavor with so many people in need. That puts a high premium on volunteers for the monthly mobile food pantry.
Rae said the Tri-state seems to have an almost endless supply of businesses, organizations and individuals willing to help out.
“We are volunteer strong,” said Rae. “Today we have a couple of volunteers from the Aquarius Casino, Edgewater Casino, U.S. Bank, Fort Mohave Walmart and a lot more.”
Word of the mobile food pantry is spread through social media and word of mouth with a wide reach, leading to a wide array of consumers.
Rae said that while many of the families attending Friday’s pantry were local — from Bullhead City, Laughlin, Fort Mohave and Mohave Valley — others drove considerable distances. She said there were families from Searchlight in Nevada, Needles in California and Lake Havasu City in Arizona who made the trip.
The volunteers and the supply of food made it worthwhile.
The group will be at Rotary Park on the third Friday of each month through September, Rae said.
Organizers are looking for a long-term site in the Fort Mohave/Mohave Valley area. Demand for food has increased so much that the operation requires a significantly larger building to serve as headquarters for Caring Hearts Food Bank Ministry, which is the umbrella organization for WOW. Rae also is Caring Hearts’ executive director.