/ Modified jan 15, 2014 7:41 p.m.

New Food Bank CEO Focuses on Broad Food Availability Issues

Michael McDonald started in early Jan. after years at Habitat for Humanity; says they need to provide more than just food.

The new CEO of the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank is entering the organization with a focus on helping ensure food security, not just feeding hungry people.

The World Health Organization defines food security as, “When all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life,” and the term is becoming increasingly used to paint a picture of food demands beyond providing meals to those who can't afford them at all times.

Michael McDonald became the newest president and CEO of the food bank Jan. 2, leaving his position at Habitat for Humanity. The shift in focus is an opportunity to learn more about Tucson, he said.

The Tucson-based food bank has a warehouse from which it provides food boxes and emergency food assistance to people who need it, but it also manages a farm, helps schools install gardens, and supports branches in other Southern Arizona communities, McDonald said.

"It looks very different depending on how you're accessing the services," he said.

Just as the services vary, so do the people who rely on the food bank for help.

"Anyone can be a potential client at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, McDonald said. "We serve low income families, distressed families in need, children, seniors."

The goal of making Southern Arizona more "food secure," McDonald said, means more than simply providing food.

"We also want to help households become more self-sufficient," he explained. "That's why we do community gardens, that's why do nutrition programs."

The food bank also helps people sign up for government benefits, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps.

McDonald said he wants to help the food bank work with other organizations.

It already works with more than 300 organizations, but, "We've got to be part of the community's efforts to reduce poverty," he said. "We've got to see our work as part of economic development."

About 25 percent of the food bank's budget comes from local or federal government sources, which is about $3 million of the bank's $12 million annual budget, he said.

The largest source of funding is donations. The food bank can stretch funding differently than a household. With $1 donated, the food bank can purchase four meals, McDonald said.

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