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NBA stars are taking their influence beyond the court and into local communities by tapping into the power of paying it forward this holiday season. According to ABC15, Phoenix Suns players Jalen Smith and Cam Johnson recently volunteered to provide underserved families with hot meals.

The two forwards teamed up with The Society of St. Vincent de Paul—a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization that has a mission rooted in providing food, clothes, shelter and other necessities for those in need—to serve nutritious meals. Johnson says participating in social good projects that are designed to support those who are facing hardships is of significant importance to him, and he wants to continue to use his platform to drive change.

“It’s opportunities to impact people,” he said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “A lot of times, you sit there and think, basketball is just a game. It’s just a game, but it gives us such a big platform. A big platform to help people and a big platform to serve.”

Projects like the one Smith and Johnson participated in are needed as food insecurity remains a pressing issue nationally. Amid the pandemic, nearly 3 million households with children struggled to put meals on the table. Further research revealed one in five Americans received food assistance. In Arizona, nearly one in three households experienced food insecurity during the global health crisis.

Ryan Correy, a leader at St. Vincent de Paul, says the rise in food prices during the holiday season and labor market shortages may exacerbate food insecurity issues. Still, the organization will continue to take a holistic approach to help those in need overcome their circumstances. “We sit and work one-to-one with families and individuals to make sure we can get them to the next step of stability,” he shared.


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