Mesa CARES: Feeding Mesa

Expanding food security in a time of need

Feeding Mesa is part of the Mesa CARES Initiative, developed to meet the community need for food security resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The City of Mesa utilized federal CARES Act funding to work with community partners to expand programming and serve more Mesa residents.
The Feeding Mesa program concluded on December 18, 2020.  However, the City of Mesa continues to support the partnerships that were developed during pandemic into 2021.


To address Mesa residents’ highest priority need of “Access to Food” (based on Community Needs Assessment) by providing nutritious food and meals to Mesa residents who have been affected by COVID-19 and by partnering with existing services, Mesa-based not-for-profit organizations and restaurants.

Desired Outcomes

  • Mesa residents have convenient ways to obtain nutritious food
  • Mesa not-for profits with increased needs due to the impacts of COVID-19 receive helpful support
  • Mesa-based restaurants who have been impacted by COVID-19 can continue to operate
  • City staff affected by closures can continue working and serving the community

Performance Measures (PM)

  • # meals served
  • # households served / # Mesa households served
  • # lbs of food distributed
  • # restaurants involved
  • # agencies involved
  • # prepared meals delivered
  • # lbs of food collected
  • # hours of services staff provided to non-profits
  • $ funding for purchase of food and resources

How do the Feeding Mesa Programs work?

The primary objective of the Feeding Mesa program was to provided food to those in need.  Working in conjunction with community organizations, and mobilizing staff for support, food and meals were provided through the following programs:
  • Drive-Through Food Distribution Program - Contactless drive-through food distribution events provided food directly to households, in partnership with United Food Banks
  • Restaurant Buyout Program - The purchase of meals from local restaurants were provided to front line workers
  • Meal Preparation Program - The preparation of meals in the Mesa Convention Center kitchen were provided to agencies who feed the need
  • Other Partnerships and Programs - Waste Not, Midwest Food Bank, House of Refuge

Meal Distribution Programs

Drive-through Food Distribution Program
The City of Mesa partnered with United Food Bank to serve additional households through drive-through distribution events.  The Mesa Convention Center, closed due to COVID-19, was mobilized as a food warehouse, packing and distribution facility.  Food was provided by United Food Bank consisting of dry goods, dairy, meat and produce.  Beginning in April, City staff took on the roles of managing the packing and distribution efforts, with the support of volunteers and the Arizona National Guard.  Distribution events were held twice weekly through June, and weekly thereafter.  United Food Bank equates 1.2 pounds of food distributed to one meal.
In addition, City of Mesa staff, displaced from their roles due to COVID-19 related closures, began supporting Midwest Food Bank, House of Refuge and numerous other Mesa-based not-for profit organizations. In Southeast Mesa, House of Refuge began twice-weekly food distribution events, supported by Midwest Food Bank and City of Mesa staff.

While the Mesa Cares Food Programs ended on December 18, 2020, the City continued partnering with the United Food Bank to distribute food through weekly food distribution events at the Mesa Convention Center, through March 26, 2021.  (The figures below indicate food distribution from 1/8-3/26/2021.)

Restaurant Buyout Program
The Community Needs Assessment further identified other groups that were under stress and in need of support as the affects of the pandemic grew.  Locally-owned restaurants were closed and suffering financial hardship, and front line workers in our hospitals and care facilities were working extra hours under extreme conditions, including, in some cases, being quarantined at their place of employment. 
City staff, reassigned to  supporting Feeding Mesa, order meals from these Mesa-based restaurants, paid for with Mesa Cares funding and arranged for them to be delivered to front line healthcare workers, five days a week.  Nearly 40 restaurants and 50 hospitals and other care facilities were part of the program which provided an average of more than 1,800 meals to front line workers each week, also enabling restaurants to remain open and employ their staff.
Meal Preparation Program
As the need for food increased, most, if not all, Mesa-base not-for-profit organizations agencies who feed homeless and needy on a regular basis also experienced an increased demand.  In order to help meet that demand, Feeding Mesa worked with the Mesa Convention Center's contracted food and beverage provider, Personal Touch Catering, to prepare healthy, ready-to-heat meals for these agencies.  Approximately 4,000 meals per week are prepared by the caterer, with help from City staff and volunteers.  Through another great partnership, the meals are delivered by WasteNot (a perishable food pick-up and distribution not-for-profit) to local agencies including A New Leaf, Paz de Cristo, Save the Family, Salvation Army, and other not-for-profit organizations.

Food Drives

Feeding Mesa addressed the need to support local food banks by holding a series of Food Drives throughout the City.  Food drives were held weekly from May 2 through July 15th, and on August 8th and 22nd.  Food drives rotated among six geographically-distinct Mesa locations locations:
  • Red Mountain Center (Northeast Mesa)
  • Sloan Park (Northwest Mesa)
  • Eastmark Great Park (Southeast Mesa)
  • Mesa Convention Center (Downtown Mesa)
  • Greenfield Park (Northwest Mesa)
  • Dobson Ranch Golf Course (Southwest Mesa)
Food collected was donated to United Food Bank and Midwest Food Bank for distribution.


The success of the Feeding Mesa program could only have been accomplished with the support and collaboration of community partnerships.  More than 100 Mesa-based agencies have been involved with the Feeding Mesa program, ensuring food gets to those in need.  Involvement has included:
  •  Food banks (United Food Bank/Midwest Food Bank)
           Providing food for distribution events
           Collecting food from Food Drives
  • Non-profit agencies
          Receiving prepared meals for distribution to the homeless
          Engaging City staff to assist with food box packing and distribution
  • Restaurants, providing meals to front line workers
  • Hospitals and Care Facilities, receiving restaurant meals
  • Community volunteers, National Guard, Mesa Fire, Police and other City staff 

Labor Hours

When, due to COVID-19, as Mesa Convention Center and other City facilities closed, staff were displaced from their normal roles.  In an effort to keep valuable employees engaged, while helping the community, staff were assigned to help with Feeding Mesa efforts.  Some of these efforts included packing food boxes for food banks and other non-profits, picking up and delivering food, and preparing meals for distribution.


The Mesa Cares funding allocated for Feeding Mesa was distributed to support the mission of providing food to those in need as a result of COVID-19.  Funding was provided for food banks to purchase food and supplies, equipment needed to address an increased demand for services, restaurant meals for front line workers, and prepared meals for no-profit agencies.