Nonprofit reducing food limit for homeless teens, seeking donations

Published: Mar. 24, 2016 at 6:42 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:19 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A nonprofit that helps homeless teens in Tucson is being forced to reduce the amount of food they are able to provide on a weekly basis from 10 pounds a week to 7 pounds a week because of a low stock of food.

Youth On Their Own took to Twitter last week urging people to consider donating nonperishable food items to their "Mini Mall," which provides teens with basic items like food and clothing items.

Jacki Vaughan-Chaldy, YOTO's college and career development coordinator, said they are seeing more than 30 teens a day visiting their Mini Mall, looking specifically for food items.

She said with the low stock, it could have a negative impact during the busy summer months.

"When we have to tell them that it's going from 10 pounds to seven, although it might not seem like a big difference, you kind of see their faces fall," Vaughan-Chaldy said.

According to YOTO's website, more than 9,000 kids are at risk of dropping out of school in Pima County.

Development Coordinator Kristyn Conner said the low stock of food items is an issue the group rarely has to deal with, but when they do, it can be tough to keep up.

"With school being out of session, kids don't have access to the free lunch and the free breakfast that the schools provide," Conner said. "So, in the months of June, July and August, we find that more and more students are relying on our Mini Mall."

Coordinators said the average teen picks up about seven or eight items from the Mini Mall, including a box of cereal, Ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, and canned fruits and vegetables.

For students like Maribel Franco, who became involved with YOTO after her mother suddenly passed away last summer, the Mini Mall is a main source for daily food items.

"I have to be a lot more particular about what I pick," Franco said.

YOTO has received donations since its plea for help, but said donations are always welcome.

YOTO is currently in need of the following food items:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Soups and chili
  • Canned pasta (Chef Boyardee, etc.)
  • Spaghetti sauce and pasta
  • Ramen noodles
  • Cereal
  • Bottled Water
  • Canned meats (tuna and chicken)
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Canned fruits
  • Canned vegetables

For a more detailed list on what you can donate, click HERE.

Online users can even visit an online register created by YOTO on that lists all items they need that can be purchased and delivered straight to YOTO's door.

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