PHOENIX — A Local First Arizona initiative that serves locally-sourced meals to vulnerable communities in Phoenix has been extended into 2022, the organization announced Wednesday.

Originally launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Feed Phoenix sources produce grown in Arizona and hires local restaurants and caterers to prepare nutritious meals which are served to families across the city.

The program from August 2020 to February served 80,760 meals and procured 5,491 fresh produce bags, according to the 2020 report.

There was a wide age range for those who benefitted from the program, but a majority were delivered to people age 55 and older.

All recipients of the meals were in the lowest income bracket earning zero or very little, according to the report, and each had been affected by COVID-19 in some way.

The program not only provides aid for those managing food security in Phoenix but also helps sustain local jobs and supply chains, according to a press release.

"The Feed Phoenix initiative is a wonderful example of what happens when our small businesses collaborate,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in the release.

“Not only are they caring for those still reeling from the effects of COVID-19 and the recession that followed, they are also creating jobs and growing the local economy. It is work that
literally changes the life of our community.”

Those who need a meal or would like to volunteer with the Feed Phoenix initiative can visit one of the organization’s 31 participating distribution centers.

The initiative currently includes 12 farms, four produce aggregators and 40 restaurants and caterers, according to the release.

"Feed Phoenix is a remarkable example of how a local economy should work," Kimber Lanning, CEO of Local First Arizona, said in the release.

"Money should touch as many local businesses in an economy as possible to feed families, and in turn, keep the maximum number of people employed while building community resilience."

Phoenix-based farms, restaurants, caterers and distribution centers can apply for the Feed Phoenix Initiative online, with the program running in three rounds from Sept. 20 to Dec. 17, Jan. 24 to April 29 and May 23 to July 22.

The program is a collaborative project between Local First Arizona and the city of Phoenix and was originally funded using CARES Act dollars.