Faces of Hunger

San Juan County residents - Expansion

In February 2024, amidst a snowy backdrop, we proudly opened our first Utah Food Bank-owned and operated pantry in Blanding. From our main office in Salt Lake, we watched as lines formed outside all day, a testament to the critical need. Since then, our commitment has remained steadfast. Throughout San Juan County, our three pantries have provided support to 8,672 individuals and their families, with new faces joining us daily. These numbers speak volumes, especially within a county housing just 18,000 individuals. Together, we're making a tangible difference in our community.

Shashana - Summer Food Service Program

For Shashana, providing for her blended family of seven children during the summer is a constant source of anxiety. Living on a local military base with a fixed income, the challenges multiply when all the kids are home for the summer months. At a nearby Summer Meal park site, Shashana felt a wave of relief watching her children eagerly devour the nutritious food. With worry still etched on her face, she asked, “If they’re still hungry, can I take them to another park that is serving lunches?”

Sherrie - Commodity Supplemental Food Program

For the past year, Utah Food Bank volunteers have been a consistent presence in Sherrie's life, arriving monthly with a Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) box from Utah Food Bank. This month, brought more than just sustenance. Alongside the usual box of food, Sherrie was surprised with a bouquet of roses from her volunteer. The gesture moved Sherrie to tears, as she felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

To Sherrie, UFB volunteers represent more than just bearers of food. They provide companionship, a source of kindness that transcends mere sustenance. "They are never in a hurry to leave," Sherrie remarks, highlighting the genuine connection shared during his visits.

For Sherrie and countless others, the contents of these boxes represent more than just ingredients. They symbolize a lifeline, a promise of nourishment and support in times of need. Moreover, CSFP extends beyond mere provisions, offering invaluable nutrition education and recipes to empower recipients in maximizing the potential of their supplies.

Candice - Mobile Pantry Client

As Candice arrived at the Cedar City mobile pantry, she noticed the line was longer than usual. With the overwhelming turnout, it was obvious there was more food than help available. Candice felt compelled to volunteer. “Sometimes taking that first step and showing up to volunteer can be intimidating. I now look forward to my volunteer Fridays each week. Thank you, Utah Food Bank, for hosting these food trucks and getting much needed food into my home.”

Kids Cafe: Thanksgiving Meal

While Utah Food Bank is proud of every meal we distribute, one of our favorites is our annual Kids Cafe Thanksgiving meal. This year, over 200 kids from six schools boarded buses to our Salt Lake warehouse to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (including personal pumpkin pies) and entertainment provided by a local magician. Thank you to Dominion Energy for sponsoring and serving this meal and to our dedicated staff for making it happen!

Sabrina: Mobile School Pantry Client

Meet Sabrina, a single mother dedicated to shaping young minds as a special education teacher at a local school. Despite juggling two jobs and pursuing her own academic goals, Sabrina faces the challenge of stretching her time to meet the demands of both work and education. However, her commitment to providing nutritious meals for her two young boys remains unwavering.

The Utah Food Bank's Mobile School Pantry program plays a pivotal role in supporting individuals like Sabrina. This initiative complements school meal programs and addresses childhood hunger by providing a cost-effective and reliable food distribution point for students and their families at the end of the school day.

Santiago: Partner Food Pantry Client

Santiago's family is tight-knit, consisting of two hardworking adults, seven children, and a baby who just turned 18 months old. The family began relying on Utah Food Bank in April after the emergency SNAP benefits, they were receiving came to an end. The rising costs of food have made it impossible for their budget to keep pace with the necessities of life, despite the tireless efforts of their father, who works to provide for the family.
When he's not helping at home, Santiago's heart is on the soccer field. He dreams of becoming a scientist one day, believing that education will be his ticket out of hardship. Santiago is a math enthusiast, and his eyes light up when he talks about his passion for numbers.
As they wait in line at a Utah Food Bank partner pantry, Santiago reflects on the challenges his family endures. He says, "My parents are always working so we don't feel hungry, and there are a lot of us kids."

Tyler: Partner Food Pantry Client

Every week, Tyler visits a local food pantry right after his work shift. His mission? To ensure there is enough food on the table for his family of six. Tyler candidly shares, "The cost of living has skyrocketed, and managing finances has become a puzzle. Having that extra food on hand relieves one more burden. Life can be tough, and this support truly lightens the load. To anyone feeling hesitant about seeking help, remember that it is there for everyone. The people here are incredibly kind. Initially, I was apprehensive about being seen, but you know what? It's absolutely fine! We all encounter times when we could use some assistance.”

Sina: Partner Food Pantry Client

Sina's story is one of determination despite facing significant challenges. Sina persevered through an abusive relationship and raises three children on her own while working to improve her situation and provide the best for her children. After a temporary temporary separation from her children due to their placement in foster care, Sina became more motivated than ever her to seek out resources and learn how to better provide for her children. Sina's commitment to being both a mother and father figure to her children highlights her dedication to their well-being. Balancing motherhood can be demanding under the best of circumstances, and Sina’s determination shines through.

Dawn: Partner Food Pantry Client

Meet Dawn. She visits one of our partner food pantries to help feed her family after a series of difficulties left her family struggling to make ends meet.
Despite getting up at 2:30 in the morning for her job at the airport, Dawn was all smiles as she expressed how grateful she is for organizations like Utah Food Bank and her local food pantry, as well as all the fantastic people who support the resources that help her feed her family. “Utah is such a wonderful state. Everybody is so nice here; it’s actually really amazing. A lot of people might be ashamed, but it’s not embarrassing to need help. We all need help. And this food is so helpful. It really is.”

Jose: Mobile Food Pantry Client and Volunteer

Jose has volunteered since the Taylorsville mobile food pantry started, mostly because he had the time to do it and wanted to give back. He said it helps his four-person household save on grocery bills, and they sometimes get food for their neighbors, as well.

Elodia and Junior

Elodia was a nurse for 20 years and continued to work in the ICU when the pandemic began. But at the end of 2020, she got COVID and ended up in the hospital for weeks. The lingering health issues, including developing diabetes, means she could no longer continue her nursing career. Yet, Elodia didn't give up because she wasn't afraid of change. Elodia and her son, Junior, now get food from their local pantry, where she has been able to find nutritious food. "My son used to be a picky eater, but now he tries new things, and even enjoys preparing dinner for us. When you feel like everything is falling down around you, you must look at what means the most, which is family for me. You must continue the fight."

Luz & 5 kids: Food Pantry Clients

Luz started visiting the food pantry in April when her family of seven lost their emergency SNAP benefits. The rising cost of food has made it harder for this working family to make their dollars stretch. Her 10-year-old daughter Star, an aspiring scientist, also lends a hand to help her family bridge the summer meal gap. “I make these bracelets and sell them to help my family,” says Star, who will enter 5th grade this fall.

The Kendall Family: Summer Food Service Program

“Summers are long with five kids at home,” one Utah mom recently shared with us at a summer meal site. “When we come to the park for lunch, I notice the kids don’t graze out of boredom the rest of the day. That helps keep grocery costs down so I can stretch my food dollars further.” For many, the summer is a tough time for parents to fill empty tummies without the help of school meals. Utah Food Bank offers free, nutritious meals through the Summer Food Service Program, available at various sites across the state for kids 18 and younger, to help families just like the Kendall Family.

"Grumpy": Mobile Pantry Client and Volunteer

“Grumpy” Tom Wilson sits at the end of the line before cars leave the lot and keeps count with a clicker at a Taylorsville mobile pantry.
He said there were fewer cars at the start of the 2023 year, but the number is climbing now. Grumpy shares that many families come through with tears in their eyes and say they’d starve otherwise.

Ana: Food Pantry Client and Volunteer

When we were first married, my husband couldn't find work, so we relied on food pantries to make ends meet. Now my husband and I both work, and I own a food truck. We have three children, and a few years ago, the Mobile School pantry started up at the elementary school. I was thrilled because I thought volunteering there would be a great way to pay it forward and help others like we'd been helped. Also, even though we are doing better, with owning my own business, things still get a little tight sometimes, so taking extra food home is a big help. I love seeing the faces of the kids and families when the truck arrives with the food. I see myself in a lot of these moms, and I'll never forget where I came from, and because of that I'll never stop giving back when I can.

Steven: Mobile Pantry Client and Volunteer

Hunger doesn’t care if there is a thunderstorm, blizzard, or extreme heat. At age 65, this is something Steven knows all too well. So, Steven didn't hesitate to answer the call when Utah Food Bank asked for volunteers to help staff a new mobile pantry to provide additional support to fellow Utahns facing hunger during a particularly icy January. “The blessings are what keep bringing me back. I get many blessings from helping a lot of people. I met my two best friends, Jake, and Stacy, through Utah Food Bank.”