Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Arizona Daily Star Article

March 1, 2009

One man against hunger
He heeds Obama's call, collects food in the Miles area

Ernesto Portillo, Jr.
Tucson, Arizona
Published: 03.01.2009

When Peter Norback heard President Obama's call for community service, the Miles Neighborhood resident decided to start right outside his front door. He began soliciting and collecting food from his Midtown neighbors.

"What a challenge to make hunger go away," Norback, 66, said recently during his weekly collection walk. His hope is thatthe city's 180-plus neighborhoods take up the same effort.

"If every neighborhood did this, we could make hunger go away. It can be done," he said. With a box affixed to his handheld cart, Norback spent about six hours walking most of his Midtown
Peter Norback collects a can of food from neighbor Juliet Kettle. “If every neighbor did this, we can make hunger go away. It can be done,” says Norback whose collections go to the Community Food Bank. He appreciates the fact that his neighbors donate good-quality food.
neighborhood which, at his count, includes about 250 houses, not
counting apartments and granny flats.

It was his sixth week and his most productive: 130 pounds and $23 for the Community Food Bank. The previous week he'd collected 78 pounds and $1.

He also likes that his neighbors have good taste in their donated food. "It's always good quality. It's nothing you wouldn't eat yourself," he said.

Norback, a self-employed computer consultant, started his one-person campaign by visiting his neighbors, talking to them about his idea and enlisting their weekly contributions. Many were quick to say yes.

One of the first to say yes was Edward Altamirano, who works for the city in housing rehabilitation. He said in his job, which takes him inside people's homes, he sees the need for donated food. "I see what their pantries look like. I see a lot of empty cupboards and refrigerators," he said, "especially among young families and the elderly."

Jack Parris of the Community Food Bank said a growing number of food-collection drives have sprung up in response to the declining economy and rising need for food.

In December the demand for food rose by 40 percent compared with the year before, said Parris. The demand stretched the food bank's resources, he added. Last month the food bank began to limit families to one box per month. Previously a family could receive two boxes each month, Parris said

Chantelle Bowers who lives in the Miles Neighborhood, said she understands the need for donated food. "I've needed the food bank. Now we need to give back," she said after she gave Norback several cans.

Miles residents leave their donations outside their doors or close to the sidewalk. At each house Norback leaves a thank-you message or sorry-I-missed-you note if there is no food or no one is home. He carries a photo identification badge he created. "This is new. He put some dollars in there," Norback said excitedly when he found several bills instead of cans. With some neighbors he chatted for a moment. At one home he knocked but no one answered. But he knew why. "That's another student," he said. "I think they sleep in on Sundays."

Norback doesn't have help yet but expects to get some soon to help him cover the triangular neighborhood bordered by East Broadway, South Campbell Avenue/Kino Parkway and Arroyo Chico. As temperature rises, Norback said, he'll have to find a way to beat the heat while he and his neighbors beat hunger. "I'm going to find a huge sombrero with a fan."

Contact reporter Ernesto Portillo Jr. at 807-8414 or eportillo@azstarnet.com.

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