Southern Arizona Animal Foodbank One Year Later and Still Going Strong

Story by Bonnie Craig , Photos Courtesy of Margaux DiConcini
When last The Tucson Dog spoke with Southern Arizona Animal Food Bank (SAAFB) they had recently opened a storefront and were working diligently to help meet the high demands of hungry pets during the Covid-19 Pandemic. That was over a year ago, and while the pandemic still rages on, so too do the undauntedly committed folks of SAAFB. What are they up to these days, you may ask? Read on to find out.
SAAFB evolved from the efforts of Mother-Daughter team Donna and Margaux DiConcini to help local people experiencing hardship care for their horses. By 2015 they had founded the nonprofit and were distributing all manner of animal food and supplies from a Tucson carport. Finally, in December of 2020, arguably not the easiest time to open a brick and mortar establishment, they did just that. It included a shop- the Artists For Animals Collective- where local artisans could sell their wares, kicking a portion of profits back to SAAFB. It also housed a storage and distribution center in the back.
While opening at that time was a calculated risk, for many in need, it could not have come at a better time. Between December 2020 and December 2021, SAAFB was able to distribute 31,869 pounds of food and help 490 individuals and families continue to care for their animals. Margaux refers to this first year as a “testing year”, and the simple fact of the shop’s survival shows that they passed, despite considerable challenges.
Their biggest challenge has always been getting enough donations to keep up with the community’s needs. SAAFB is a Chewy recipient, meaning that food returned to the online retailer can be donated to them. They also receive some donations from large pet food companies, but still rely mostly on donations from the community. SAAFB understands the importance of consistency in an animal’s diet, so tries to provide recipients with the same food their pet is used to. For this reason, while a huge pallet of Purina kibble may be a great acquisition, it won’t fulfill the specific dietary needs of every animal.
In addition to food, those in need also have the chance to pick out a free leash and collar from the store, as well as other items like toys and beds. Not only this, but the organization also helps connect people to free and low-cost spay/neuter and vaccination services through vouchers and referrals. Recipients of these donations and services often show their gratitude to SAAFB by volunteering in turn. The people and animals who benefit from the work of SAAFB come from many backgrounds, from those who are experiencing homelessness, to those who have simply had an unexpected expense pop up and are faced with rough financial decisions. One woman who was struggling with a family member sick with Covid and having been furloughed from her job set aside her pride at the last minute and asked for help from SAAFB. For her, one 40 pound bag of dog food was enough to loosen the financial strain, so she could afford a tank of gas, make it to job interviews, and eventually get back on her feet. Sometimes people just need a little help, and SAAFB is a no-judgment zone.
As they become better known, SAAFB has been getting more calls for help from communities in need outside of Tucson. At food banks in Benson and Wilcox, people were inquiring about food for their animals, so SAAFB began driving truckloads out to them. In Douglas, a farm had to downsize as a result of a dried up well. In order to help raise funds to dig a new one, they were able to sell some of their farm products at the Artists For Animals Collective shop. This served not to help bail them out (no pun intended), but to connect the community to local farm products as well.
All things considered, 2021 was a pretty good year for Southern Arizona Animal Food Bank. They were able to thrive in their new storefront, as well as expanding services throughout Southern Arizona. They also secured more corporate donors, but as previously stated, it is all of us in the community who can make the biggest difference, just as Margaux and Donna DiConcinni did years ago when they began helping people feed their horses. Financial and physical donations of food are always greatly appreciated, but there are other ways to help, for those who are not in a position to donate. Simply putting out the word about SAAFB helps tremendously, there are various volunteer opportunities, or people may even want to organize a pet food drive at their workplace or school. SAAFB does a lot of heavy lifting, but we can all pitch in. Just like receiving help, sometimes giving it, even a tiny amount, can make a huge difference. To learn more about SAAFB go to https://www.saafb.org/, contact them at (520) 268-7299, or just stop by the shop at 6212 E Speedway Next door to Philly’s Finest.



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