Library food distribution is feeding families

One of the bright spots these last few weeks is how quickly the free food distribution at libraries came together.

We dubbed it "Grab-N-Go Super Snacks" when it started out as a joint project with the Amphitheater Public Schools and the Arizona Department of Education.

With the help of these partnerships Librarian Caitlin Burns established 10 library locations where we started out by giving out free non-perishable snacks to children, like Goldfish crackers, sunflower seeds, fruit juice, and fresh fruit. 

Then we were asked: "Would the library like to be able to give out fresh vegetables too?

In a word, yes. And so -- for the first time ever -- the library was visited by the Arizona Army National Guard with truckload deliveries of boxes of beautiful vegetables from the Wilson Produce farms and food warehouses near Nogales, AZ. Our lower level meeting room became a (social distanced and very clean) warehouse and assembly line, and staff who volunteered to do so came back to work for a few hours every morning.

This post is a big thank you note to all the people and organizations that are making this food distribution possible.

We asked the staff who are working at the Grab-N-Go Snacks what it has been like, and Rachel told us "Honestly, we feel a bit like Santa's elves. We have to put in a lot of work toting all those heavy boxes around in the heat, but seeing the faces of the kids and families is so so worth it! It's tough out there right now, so being able to do something helpful and caring and positive for the community is wonderful." Thania says "Participating in the snack program has been a truly positive and inspiring experience."

Ahem. There's something in my eye. Here are some more of the stories.

  • The children and their families come for the snacks, but when they see the produce children are asking us if they can also bring food to share with the rest of their family and their neighbors. And grandma. (The snack bags provided by the school district are for anyone under 18, but the veggies are for anyone).
  • One mom who picked up a box of produce yesterday told us, “Thank you for the vegetables, we made a salad last night! We also shared with our neighbors.”
  • Several families have told us that the snack bag pickup has become a part of their routine for the day.
  • One little boy is learning how to be responsible and help his mom, so he is the one to come up to get the snack bags and produce. He looks like he's only 4.
  • Another little one was so happy about the produce box with lots of tomatoes that she ate half a tomato on the walk home and ended up with a tomato seed beard. Her family walks to the library every weekday to pick up the snacks and one produce box. The mom shares recipes and we brainstorm ideas for how to use all that produce!
  • Some of the kids are just thrilled to be able to go to the library again. It's a small return to a routine, to something both familiar and beloved. We had so many little ones asking about books that we brainstormed activity bags to hand out on Fridays, so the kids could take something fun home.
  • A Valencia Library storytime family that has been coming regularly for snacks made us smile ear to ear today. The kids brought their baby dolls and held them out the car window to say hello to us, while mom hopped out to get snacks. When they left, the baby dolls waved goodbye. It was adorable!
  • Throughout the week, we have also been receiving kind messages from others in the community driving by just to see what is going on. Today, somebody stopped to say, “You guys are doing something good for the community. Thank you for doing this.”
  • We're also seeing the kids learning to stand in line, minding manners (lots of please and thank you), and adjust to the new normal (staying 6 feet away, everyone wearing masks, etc). And, of course, they're learning how to share, since they can see not only the library staff sharing, but their family sharing the produce and news with others.

The fresh produce is available for everyone who needs food.

  • An elderly man at one library was so excited when we started giving out produce boxes that he was on the verge of tears. "I promised myself I wouldn't cry," he said, "but I'm so grateful you are doing this." He also picks up a box for his housebound neighbors.
  • A man experiencing homelessness came and got a small bag of produce and was eating the cucumber right away.
  • The senior citizens at the Quincie Douglas branch stop for a program at the community center. When they are done they come over to get a small bag of produce. 
  • For the produce boxes, we get lots of heartfelt "God bless you" and "thank you so much!" People are truly appreciative and, even more lovely, are paying it forward by sharing with neighbors and friends and passing the word along.

Grab-N-Go Snack days and times, through May 29.

Proof of caregiving for children is required to receive snack bags, but you do not need a library card or show ID to receive the produce.

Monday through Friday from 9– 10 am:

Nanini Library
Martha Cooper Library
Valencia Library
Mission Library
El Rio Library

Monday through Friday from 10:30 – 11:30 am:

Woods Memorial Library
Eckstrom-Columbus Library
El Pueblo Library
Southwest Library
Quincie Douglas Library

Stuff to know:

  • The safety of customers and staff will be highest priority. This is a contact-free service. Staff wear masks and gloves at all times. Kits with disposable gloves, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizers will be provided to all staff and used during each distribution. No contact will be made during food exchanges. Library staff are making sure that everyone practices social distancing 6 feet while they wait and again when they pick up their snacks.
  • The vegetables we are giving away will change, depending on what is fresh and available
  • This series of food giveaways ends May 29th, but there are plans to continue and perhaps expand the reach for the summer months
  • Right now we don’t have the capacity for more donations. If you want to help please know that your thanks and support are enough

Heartfelt thanks to our partners who are helping us make this happen