In our 115-year history, none of us can remember a time of uncertainty like this (although admittedly, none of us can remember back quite as far as when we first opened). Many furloughed employees have been working without pay and face a lot of uncertainty about how they will be able to pay rent AND put food on their tables. Our primary role is emergency food assistance, which means we and our partner agencies are here to feed anyone who has found themselves in a situation where they can’t afford food. We are not here to take a stance on politics, but to help those who need it, and judging by the number of people reaching out who want to help, many share this same goal. Hopefully, this information will be a resource to those wishing to help, along with those seeking help.
What is Utah Food Bank Doing About It?
Because we distribute food through a statewide network of 150 partner agencies, such as food pantries, we serve more as a distributor than a service provider. We send this food completely free-of-charge to agencies in all 29 counties who directly serve those facing hunger. The biggest uptick we are hearing about is coming from our partner agencies in the Ogden area, and we are in constant contact with them to ensure that we help them keep their shelves fully stocked so that they can help those affected. Our partner agencies have been asked to offer assistance to anyone who can show proof of federal employment, no questions asked. In addition, we are ready to send Mobile Pantries to areas who may need additional services focused in specific geographic areas. This includes distributions focused on helping TSA employees affected by the shutdown.
How Can I Help?
We always ask for 3 things: food, time and money. Right now, financial donations are our primary focus as the uncertainty of this situation requires that we remain flexible and ready to help on short notice. With our ability to stretch each $1 donated into $7.34 worth of goods and services, we’ll put your generosity to good use!
As more time elapses, needs will become greater and more wide-spread. But our partner agencies also need help, and you can donate food directly to them if you prefer. Here’s a list of them so you can find the location nearest you. They may have additional needs, and we encourage you to call them directly for more information.
But donated food does a lot of good, and in fact provides a variety that we can’t match with large-scale purchases. You can host a food drive, donate food to us or your local pantry, and even drop off food at any Harmons location in the state (in fact, you can do that year-round). If you need a list of our most-needed items, click HERE. You can also donate to our Virtual Food Drive, or even host one yourself, which allows you to select the items you’d like us to purchase using our incredible ability to stretch donations.
What Else Should I Know?
One of the most pressing concerns right now are the 200,000 Utahns who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. This program is federally run, so funding is currently tied up due to the shutdown. Benefits will be distributed at twice their normal rate in January, meaning that recipients will need to budget and plan accordingly, as the next distribution may not come until March. If the federal government doesn’t reopen by that time, we anticipate a drastic increase in requests for food assistance at pantries across the state, as it could mean there is no funding available for March. The longer this goes on, the more our direct service programs are at stake, but we are monitoring the situation closely and will plan accordingly to have as few service disruptions, if any, as possible.
Where Can I Get Help?
Visit your local food pantry. Take some proof of federal employment with you to expedite the process, as our pantries have been instructed lift typical income requirements.
Call United Way’s 2-1-1, for a directory of services nearest you. Or, text 898-211 with your zip code and you’ll be sent a list of resources in your area within moments.
The bottom line is that we, along with the rest of the country, are navigating through uncharted waters. Thanks to the incredible generosity of our supporters, we are fully committed to continuing to fight hunger statewide. Thank you for your support during this critical time.