How Phoenix is feeding the hungry and saving local businesses

Like most cities around the world, Phoenix, Arizona had its restaurant and hospitality industries ravaged by the pandemic. When the city received its federal CARES Act relief, it decided to allocate $951,000 towards an ambitious goal: saving the city’s farms and restaurants and providing food to those in need. 

The pandemic shut down restaurants and hotels, subsequently eliminating the market for wholesale food, so the city came up with a plan to knock out two birds with one stone. Feed Phoenix, a new initiative, buys wholesale produce from farms and then hires restaurants, chefs, and caterers to turn it into meals for those in need. These meals are distributed to shelters, food banks, and refugee housing. 

The program is being orchestrated by the nonprofit Local First Arizona, a coalition of 3,000 local businesses. So far, they have churned out 50,000 meals and helped keep 16 farms and nearly 45 restaurants and caterers afloat. 

The versatility of the program is what makes it so successful. Farms can choose what they sell and restaurants are able to produce meals with whatever comes their way. One farm, Crooked Sky Farms, sold 13,333 pounds of winter squash to the program that might have otherwise gone uneaten. Another great benefit is that shelters are receiving meals made with fresh ingredients that are much higher quality than they otherwise would be able to offer. 

Reducing food waste, feeding those in need, and supporting local businesses, the program does it all. It has been so successful the city has allocated an additional $350,000 from its CARES Act funding to the project and has extended it through summer 2021. Although Feed Phoenix cannot support every local farm or chef or feed every hungry person, it is making a sizable dent in the food and financial needs of the community. We hope to see other cities inspired by Phoenix and take on similar initiatives!

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