LeDonna Burgess, Scott Petit

LeDonna Burgess, of Willcox St. Vincent de Paul, presents $1,000 to Willcox Safeway Manager Scott Petit for much-needed food items to be donated directly to the Willcox Food Pantry.

WILLCOX — The summer months can be difficult for rural low-income families who can’t make it to the free meal program at the school.

Food to sustain low-income families through the summer months is a vital necessity, and now the Willcox Food Pantry has some money to keep the shelves stocked.

LeDonna Burgess, of the Willcox St. Vincent de Paul Conference, applied for a $1,000 renewable monthly grant to be given to the pantry via the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Tucson Diocesan Council.

Working together, St. Vincent de Paul president Theresa Thuerauf and secretary Rachel Garza assisted Burgess in the grant-writing process. On June 6, the order of $1,000 worth of food was made through the Willcox Safeway and delivered on the same day to the pantry.

“We have a large portion of low-income and unemployed people (in and around Willcox). This grant will be a real asset because a lot of the children in our area depend on school lunches for their noon meal, and now that school is out, their families will be able to offset that by getting food at the Willcox Food Pantry,” Burgess said.

“We have the largest school district (in) bus miles in the state of Arizona. These kids come in from 40 to 50 miles to Willcox. I’m certified in economic development; there’s 3,000 to 4,000 people in the city and the buying population for Willcox is 18,000, so all the rest of us live outside of town. If they live out toward Bonita, the Green House, out toward the Chiricahuas or out in Kansas Settlement, they’re not going to be coming into town to get their free lunch at the school.”

According to www.countyhealthrankings.org, 56 percent of schoolchildren in Cochise County are eligible for free or reduced lunches. In comparison, Graham County has 46 percent, with the highest being 98 percent for Santa Cruz County and the lowest being Pima County, which is 27 percent.

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