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Who We Are


At Tempe Community Action Agency (TCAA), we envision a society where every person has what they need to live a healthy, purposeful life. That’s why it’s our mission to eliminate poverty and advance equitable communities.

We help to lift economically vulnerable households in the East Valley out of poverty by helping adults and families enhance their stability and security by providing highly responsive support that helps them meet their goals. Our core services focus on four primary areas of impact: Food Security, Housing Stability, Health and Well-Being, and Economic Empowerment.


Poverty is and has always been one of our greatest obstacles to a healthy, flourishing society. When we struggle to meet our most basic needs - a stable home, an adequate income, sufficient nutrition - we’re prevented from being able to live a life of purpose and fulfillment.

  • At any given point in time, more than 1,100 adults and children from Tempe are homeless (City of Tempe)
  • 1 in 6 Maricopa County seniors experiences food insecurity (America’s Health Rankings 2018)
  • 1 in 4 children in Tempe are living in poverty (U.S. Census)
  • 73% of students in Tempe Elementary Schools qualifies for free and reduced price meals (AZ Department of Education, 2017)
  • In Tempe zip code 85281, home to one-third of the city's population, 38.9% of residents are living in poverty. This rate increases to an astonishing 57.5% of single mother households with children living in 85281. Citywide, the poverty rate is 21.6% (U.S. Census).


In 1966, two community-minded women, Lupe Esquer and Barbara Norton saw a need in Tempe and started “Operation Grassroots”.  TCAA's main purpose was and continues to be to enable adults and families to achieve substantive improvement in their well-being by addressing the causes and effects of poverty. Long ago TCAA operated programs such as after-school care for youth, a dental clinic, and a tortilla factory along others.

After becoming incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1971 TCAA narrowed its focus to hunger, poverty, and housing stability and has remained true to these focus areas ever since. Today TCAA is Tempe’s largest social services agency, serving more than 30,000 adults and children annually -- equivalent to 1 in 7 Tempe residents.