According to Feeding America, 40 million people face hunger in the U.S. today — including more than 12 million children and more than five million seniors. In Utah, 382,000 people—one in eight overall, and one in seven children—live with the daily threat of hunger. Last year Utah Food Bank, founded in 1904, distributed 39.2 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 32.7 million meals, to individuals and families throughout the state.
Housed in an 86,000-square-foot warehouse stacked floor to ceiling, the food bank’s Salt Lake City distribution center actually has no pantry. Rather, it distributes food and supplies to 149 partner organizations around the state. They also have a Southern Utah distribution center in St. George to help with this effort.
It’s difficult to imagine the immense scope of the good this organization does every day. Even when you stand inside the ginormous building and contemplate the stacks, it’s hard to grasp. Here’s another mind-boggling statistic: The food bank filled and emptied its warehouse 22 times last year.
Feeding Hungry Kids and Seniors
Utah Food Bank sponsors several major programs targeted to specific statewide needs:
- Kids’ Cafe: The food bank’s Kids’ Cafe staff prepares 2,190 meals each weekday and transports them to 78 after-school sites. Last year the food bank provided almost 405,272 meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry.
- BackPack Program: Each Friday during the school year, participating children receive a backpack containing easy-to-prepare, child-friendly food to help sustain them through the weekend. Among some of the items those packs contain are shelf-stable milk, tuna, peanut butter, Easy Mac, vegetables and fruit. Thanks to the generous support of ProBar, Utah Food Bank is also able to offer nutritious meal replacement bars as well. Last year, Utah Food Bank filled over 55,855 backpacks with meals for hungry Utah children at 35 sites around the state.
- Food Boxes: This program provides seven to nine days worth of food to seniors, disabled persons and people who live alone and either have no access to transportation or no relatives who can take them to their local food pantry. They receive a variety of perishables—veggies, fruits, dairy products, and canned and packaged foods. Last year Utah Food Bank distributed 43,917 food boxes.
- Mobile Pantries: Last year, the Utah Food Bank served more than 224,000 individuals through their Mobile Pantry program. Mobile pantries provide additional support to individuals facing hunger with staples, including as much fresh food as possible, in communities that are underserved by traditional brick-and-mortar pantries. Mobile pantries also bring fresh food to areas where clients lack sufficient transportation to access the nearest food pantry.
It Takes a Village
The food bank’s headquarters employs 90 full-time associates. In addition, they benefited from 83,418 hours of volunteer service last year, or the equivalent of 40 full-time employees. Volunteers perform whatever needs to be done at a given moment, including sorting food, performing clerical work, delivering food boxes and cleaning the warehouse.
Volunteers come from all walks of life. Some are as young as five years of age. In the Food Box program, the same volunteer delivers the box to the same house each month. For some recipients, these volunteers may be their only visitors. “It’s more than just a food box for the recipients and the volunteers that deliver the boxes,” says Utah Food Bank’s president and CEO, Ginette Bott. She told me the story of a family who delivered a box to a senior every month for nine years. When the recipient passed, the family paid the funeral expenses. “The relationships that form are phenomenal,” she says.
How You Can Help
The food bank accepts donations in the form of food, money and time. You can donate and sign up for volunteer shifts online. Shifts are 90 minutes and run 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Friday, and 8:00 am to a:00 pm on Saturday. You can find more information here.
From now through the end of December, a percentage of your Hugger Mugger purchases will go to support the Utah Food Bank.