Curaleaf Raising Funds to Fight Food Insecurity in Phoenix

Nourish Phoenix on South 9th Avenue is one of two local beneficiaries of Curaleaf's Feed the Block program.
Nourish Phoenix on South 9th Avenue is one of two local beneficiaries of Curaleaf's Feed the Block program. Matt Hennie
In a typical day, staff and volunteers at Nourish Phoenix provide food boxes to between 100 and 150 families. On a recent busy day, the organization served around 170 food insecure families.

In Arizona, 798,790 people are facing hunger, according to Feeding America.

This year, Nourish Phoenix and United Food Bank were chosen as the beneficiaries for cannabis giant Curaleaf’s Feed the Block program. The multistate fundraiser supports 24 locally run food banks, homeless shelters and nonprofits across the U.S.

“We serve anywhere from 100 to 150 families a day,” said Kat Eglezos, program director at Nourish Phoenix. “Any donations or income that we have coming in is so valuable because we literally can't do a lot without it. The programs don't run. The staff doesn’t get paid. We can't feed people.”

From August 15 to September 15, Curaleaf’s nine locations in the Valley will accept monetary donations and send employees to volunteer at the organizations as part of Feed the Block.

Food insecurity across the country continues to be a point of concern as inflation particularly impacts price tags at grocery stores. The USDA Economic Research Service found food prices were 10.4 percent higher in June 2022 than they were in June 2021.

The cost of living in Phoenix is on the rise, too. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 7 percent hike in the consumer price index for all urban consumers from last August.

Eglezos said Nourish Phoenix sees the strain these increases place on those who are struggling with food insecurity and rising costs.

“A lot of folks just can't afford food for their families,” Eglezos said.

Volunteers and staff at Nourish Phoenix put together food boxes that take into account the five food groups, the number of people the box will feed, and the individual needs for each family. The organization also offers clothing, career training and classes that range from nutrition to technology.

United Food Bank, a member of Feeding America, has a similar mission to feed and support communities. In 2021, United Food Bank served 870,000 people across 19,500 square miles in Gila, Pinal, Maricopa, Apache, and Navajo counties.

“These types of fundraising initiatives have a vast impact, and we are grateful for community organizations and partners that make them happen,” Grace Bishara, corporate relations director for United Food Bank, said in a prepared statement.

Last year, Feed the Block raised $119,000 overall across the U.S.

Uqdah said Curaleaf chose beneficiaries for Feed the Block from staff submissions. It looks for organizations that its employees are personally connected with or proud of.

“We try to address what we call the collateral consequences of the war on drugs — that being disparities in access to things like food, health, wellness, education,” Raheem Uqdah, Curaleaf's corporate responsibility director, told Phoenix New Times.

Though Uqdah hopes the fundraiser surpasses the 2021 total, he also wants to focus on employee volunteer efforts and raise excitement about the fundraiser among staff.

“It's one thing to be asking for money behind a register,” Uqdah said. “It's another thing to feel deeply connected with some of these organizations."

Curaleaf sends out its first drove of employees to volunteer at Nourish Phoenix on Friday, August 26.
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