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Follow the Can

Go behind the scenes from donation to delivery.

Video story by Elijah Miller
Article by Sarah Farrell

Have you ever wondered what happens to the canned food you donate once it ends up in one of those white St. Vincent de Paul donation boxes? How many stops do those cans take from your shopping cart to the pantry of someone in need?

As the holiday season ramps up, we take you behind the scenes to “Follow the Can” from donation to delivery.

With so many in need this holiday season, your company might be hosting a food drive at the office this month. So, you bring in canned chicken and canned vegetables to donate. 

On average SVdP collects over 20,000 pounds of food through community drives every month.

Donations of non-perishable goods from all over the Valley make their way to our Central Food Bank in Phoenix. They’re unloaded and taken to our Food Reclamation Center.

From there, staff and volunteers sort through donations from your monetary contributions, from food drives, from local grocery stores, and from drives taking place around the Valley like Million Meal Crusade and Turkey Tuesday this November.

The sorted food is packed and stored for Vincentian volunteers to pick up and take back to their local food pantries.

Most Conferences, or local food pantries, in Maricopa County pick up their food allotment once a month from the Food Reclamation Center. Pantries outside of Maricopa County have their allotment delivered by the Food Reclamation Semi Truck once a month.

There are 80 Vincentian-run food pantries around central and northern Arizona that serve thousands of hungry people in their local community. So, your donation could end up all the way in Wickenburg or Page or Parker, or it might go to feed a family right here in your own backyard.

“Every Conference is different in how they operate and meet to distribute food and other assistance,” Jerry Castro, director of Vincentian community engagement, said. “Some Conferences are available twice a week, while others are taking calls six days a week. Almost all Conferences have their own telephone line to take calls for assistance.”

From there, the volunteers in each food pantry sort the food into individual food boxes and package it for each family – giving families bread, milk, eggs, rice, canned meat, and other essential goods to help them get by. 

Depending on the need in the area, these food pantries can serve up to 100 families a week each, Jerry said.

The volunteers are ingrained in their communities and get to know the families they serve. If a family has other needs like diapers or rent assistance for example, they will try to help fulfill those needs as well.

Then, the food boxes are loaded up into one of the volunteer’s cars, and in pairs they travel out around their parish community to deliver the food boxes directly to the homes of those in need. Now, those canned goods you dropped off in the donation box at your office are in the cupboard of a hungry family that needs it.

Ready to make a donation? You can sign up to host your own drive with your family, friends, or coworkers. Or if you’re out shopping this holiday season, keep an eye out for our Turkey Tuesday drive with Basha’s, Food City, and AJ's Fine Foods or the Million Meal Crusade at Safeway and Albertsons. You can make a monetary donation at the registers all month long.

Want to get involved this holiday season?

From sorting food donations to packing food boxes you can make a difference this holiday season.

Need a food box?

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, contact your nearest SVdP conference in the Valley