By: Lanny A. Kope April 7, 2018
Published in the Sierra Vista Herald/Review
You may not realize it, but poverty is a major issue in Cochise County.
In January of this year, it was reported by the Sierra Vista Herald/Review that 26.9 percent of children in the county live in poverty. The highest number of them, 44.5 percent, reside in Huachuca City.
During the week, disadvantaged children are able to receive school lunches at reduced cost or no cost. But what happens on the weekend, when there is no school ?
Peach’s Pantry started with one school and 11 children, and now serves 13 schools and approximately 240 children. Operated solely by dedicated volunteers, Peach’s Pantry provides weekend meals for children whose families are economically disadvantaged.
Each Thursday morning these volunteers, led by Sarah Pacheco, meet at the Rothery Educational Services Center. There, the volunteers pack the bags for the children with a weekend’s supply of food. Once the bags are packed, volunteer drivers deliver the food to school representatives who then give it to the children. The schools maintain the list of recipients and obtain the parental permission for the child to receive it.
So what goes into the student’s food bag? Well, according to CEO Sarah Pacheco, a typical one contains two cans of vegetables; two main-dish items such as macaroni and cheese, Pasta Roni, or Chef Boyardee; two breakfast items such as instant oatmeal or cereal; two cans or packages of soup; two snacks i.e. granola bars, crackers or peanut butter; and two dessert items like fruit cups, pudding cups, or Jello cups. On long weekends, three of each item is provided, along with a jar of peanut butter or jelly and crackers. Family bags are also provided in larger quantities, and all foods are easily prepared items.
The main communities currently served are Sierra Vista and Huachuca City. Limited service is also provided in Douglas and Tombstone.
Peach’s Pantry would like to expand its service area, but has reached the point where it can no longer rely solely on volunteers. It faces the need to establish a paid staff.
The successfulness of Peach’s Pantry has presented a challenge for the community. That challenge is to support Peach’s Pantry’s charitable mission … to provide food on weekends to schoolchildren in the Sierra Vista and surrounding area who are economically disadvantaged in order to enrich their learning capabilities.
Peach’s Pantry needs the community’s additional and renewed support, and there are several ways to do that.
One way is to make a cash contribution. Peaches Pantry is a charitable organization, and contributions are tax-deductible. Also, an in-kind contribution of food is another way you can help. Contributions should be small, nonperishable items that are easy to prepare. These would be items such as canned fruits and vegetables, canned soup, canned pasta, instant oatmeal or cereal, granola bars, snack items and similar commodities.
Another way for organizations to help is by conducting a food drive for Peach’s Pantry. This would be a great way to keep shelves stocked with food items. Or a fundraiser would also be a help.
Peach’s Pantry functions on donations since it does not receive government support.
Representatives are available to speak to your organization, and will work with you in obtaining charitable contributions.
Lanny A. Kope, EdD has been a hospital trustee for more than 40 years, serving on urban and rural hospital boards. He is the past Board chairman of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, and has had a national responsibility as chairman of the American Hospital Association’s Committee on Governance.