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Stay up to date on all the exciting happenings at the Utah Food Bank.

Life is unpredictable. There are a million things that can – and do – go wrong. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, like 63% of Americans do, there is no safety net. Any small bump in the road can be the catalyst for a major disaster. The smallest crisis can easily become the thing that brings it all down, like a house of cards.
 
Let’s say your budget only allows for you to put $5 of gas in your tank each pay period, which is just enough for you to make it to work and back…and then the price of gas increases. You still have to get to work, so you have to find somewhere else to get that money.
 
Or maybe you lost your job because of the pandemic, and your savings are gone. You get a job interview, but when you show up, the only parking available requires payment. You spent your last $2.36 on gas and can’t afford to pay for parking, so you cross your fingers and hope for the best. Then your car gets towed. You certainly can’t afford to pay the fee to get it back. Even a high-cost payday loan isn’t an option because you don’t have a job.
 
These scenarios aren’t unusual or unlikely. Poverty comes with a steep premium – in stress, time, and money – every day.
 
With soaring temperatures, people stuck at home because they are unemployed or working remotely will depend on their air conditioners more than ever. But individuals living near the poverty line spend an average of 9% of their budget on energy bills – triple that of middle- and upper-income households. Rent prices across Utah have continued to rise nearly every single year over the past decade. A stunning 1 in 5 Utah renters are considered “severely cost-burdened,” meaning they pay more than 50% of their income on rent.
 
And that’s before you look at the cost of transportation. To buy groceries, commute to work, go to school, visit the doctor’s office, or pick up any medication you or your family might need, you need a way to get there. But if you make minimum wage, owning a car can take more than half of your annual income once you pay for gas, insurance, tires, registration, and maintenance.
 
If housing and utilities can take 60% of your paycheck and owning a car can take another 50%, the numbers simply don’t add up. Far too many of our neighbors are living in the red. And that’s before you look at necessities like food, which has jumped in price by nearly a third over the past year.
 
It’s nearly impossible to address all the costs associated with poverty, certainly not in one blog post. The challenges are many, and there is no one solution, but when you give to Utah Food Bank, you join the fight against hunger statewide and help lessen the burden for our food-insecure neighbors.

Donate Now.

 


“The eradication of hunger is not just an end in itself: It is a first step toward sustainable development and progress in general, for a hungry man is not a free man. He cannot focus on anything else but securing his next meal.” — Kofi Annan

Food security means that you or your family aren’t worried about paying for groceries, where your next meal might come from, or cutting back on food to pay the bills. It means not having to worry about whether you can afford enough good nutritious food to keep your family healthy. It means freedom from the shackles of hunger – and just as importantly, freedom from the fear that comes with hunger.

Food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.* A recent Gallop poll showed that 55% of Americans worry a great deal about hunger and homelessness.

There’s a good reason for that worry. COVID-19 is an avid reminder that hunger can happen to anyone. It’s not just “those people” or the people who live “there.” When you’re living paycheck to paycheck because you can barely cover your living costs, all it takes is one unexpected financial emergency, and you could find yourself in need of food assistance.

The pandemic saw the number of Utah children facing hunger jump from 1 in 6 to 1 in 5. In southern Utah, it’s a staggering 1 in 4.

The impact of food insecurity and hunger is profound. It impacts every aspect of your life – physical, mental, and emotional. Constantly worrying about where your next meal will come from can cause mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and even posttraumatic stress disorder. Food insecurity puts you at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

The consequences for children are especially devastating. Empty tummies cause children to be irritable, hyperactive, and aggressive. These behavioral issues can distract kids from their school work, leading to developmental delays and learning disabilities. Fifty percent of children facing hunger will need to repeat a grade. And the signs that a child is struggling with hunger can often be hard to spot.

Every person deserves to be free from food insecurity. We are proud to be a part of the solution, to be Fighting Hunger Statewide. It’s no small task – 511,000 Utahns are currently facing food insecurity – but as Kofi Annan so powerfully writes, food security and the eradication of hunger are the first steps toward creating a world of truly sustainable development.

Click here to donate now and join us in the fight. Working together, we can create a world where freedom from hunger rings.

 

 

*Food security, as defined by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

 


Our work here at Utah Food Bank would not be possible without the efforts of thousands of volunteers each year — those who sort food in our warehouse, load neighbors’ cars at Mobile Pantries, stock shelves at traditional pantries, and countless other essential tasks. In fact, during the year before COVID-19, we benefited from 119,751 volunteer hours!

The pandemic required us to drastically cut volunteer hours and opportunities, making this past year incredibly difficult. Staff had to work for 3 months with no volunteers at all. We had to stop sort projects and any non-essential projects to save time and employee energy.

Our staff’s dedication, hard work, and positivity during that challenging time were astounding, and we are so proud of them all. But it was also a vivid reminder to all of us just how much we rely on our community to help us in the fight against hunger. We are profoundly grateful for everyone who worked tirelessly to ensure we could continue Fighting Hunger Statewide and are incredibly excited to be officially open to full volunteer capacity again!
 
From sorting food to delivering food boxes to helping with special projects like the Summer Feeding Program and the Bean Soup project, there is plenty to do around here. As we work towards ramping back up, we have several volunteer opportunities available and a lot of open shifts in need of volunteers.
 

Volunteer Shifts:

All volunteers must schedule in advance.

Monday Family Shifts are BACK!!  4:30-5:30pm, 5:30-6:30pm, 6:30-7:30pm for up to 15 volunteers per group

Tuesday – Thursday: 12:00-1:30pm, 1:30-3:00pm, 3:00-4:30pm, 6:00pm-7:30pm

Friday: 10:00am-11:30am, 12:00pm-1:30pm, 1:30-3:00pm, 3:00pm-4:30pm

Saturday: 8:00-10:00am, 10:00am-12:00pm, 12:00-1:00pm (Family Shift)

 
To help us prepare for volunteers and maximize the quality of the experience, all volunteers must schedule in advance. We do not accept walk-in volunteers. Volunteers must be at least 12 years of age, except for children signed up for family volunteer shifts. We are brimming with gratitude for all our volunteers — past and present — who fuel the fight against hunger in Utah.
 

You can find out about all our volunteer opportunities and sign up here. We can’t wait to see you!

 


What is your kid doing this summer? Iker is waking up at 5 am to stand in line for food. The 9-year-old lives with his grandmother, 10-year-old sister, and 11-year-old brother. During the summer, they wake up early to go to the community center, where they receive food to last them the day.  “I’m a kid. I do not feel like a kid because I have a lot of responsibilities at home.”

 

When Iker isn’t at school, he helps out around the house, cleaning, and cooking with his grandmother. Unlike a lot of kids, summer is not Iker’s favorite time of the year. He misses school – the classes, teachers, and his friends – but he also knows that summer means no free breakfast and lunch, which he normally eats in school. “I do worry sometimes,” he admits. “I want my family to have food in their tummies. When you skip a meal, your stomach starts hurting.” 

 

Iker isn’t the only child placed in a more precarious situation in the summer. Kids facing food insecurity don’t have the luxury of just enjoying time off school…they have to worry about whether or not they will have enough to eat. For families whose budgets are already stretched thin during the school year, they have to figure out how to make their budget stretch even further to provide the two meals that their kids normally receive at school. COVID-19 has only increased the number of people fighting to make ends meet and keep their children fed. At the same time, with the majority of food and monetary donations coming in during the winter holiday season, summer is a critical time for Utah Food Bank.

 

Because businesses don’t take a summer break, our Summer Business Food & Fund Drive encourages local businesses to help by hosting a Summer Business Food & Fund Drive! Whether you’re back in the office or still working from home, it’s the perfect opportunity to do some good and rally your business around a common cause! There are options for a Virtual Food Drive, traditional food drive, or even a combination of both! Registering is easy, and we provide all the tools you’ll need for whichever type of food or fund drive you choose to do.

 

Get started here!

 


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to talk about the connection between food insecurity and poor mental health, something that we haven’t highlighted nearly enough in the past. Research shows that individuals reporting food insecurity are at an increased risk of mental illness. To make matters worse, this increased risk is magnified in high stress and socially isolated environments – which is exactly the scenario the pandemic has created for thousands of our neighbors.
 
Sarah, a young mother and food pantry client, shared how this environment has impacted her. “When the pandemic hit, I was seven months pregnant. My husband had a consulting company he was trying to start up. He was also in the reserves, so he made some money that way. We mostly used my college scholarships for our day-to-day needs. When school let out, and the consulting wasn’t providing enough, he started looking for a job. I was often home alone, and it became a constant question of what to make for dinner because I never really had quite enough. The fridge was always close to empty, and our pantry wasn’t much better. It’s humbling not to have enough food. After we brought our baby home, I remember feeling so much fear when breastfeeding didn’t start well because we did not have enough to buy formula. I felt like I was fighting so hard to feel like we were ok that I didn’t have any space left for joy. I just hated opening the fridge. A friend saw how much we were struggling and recommended the food bank, which has helped tremendously. But even now, with a full fridge, thinking about what to make for dinner causes anxiety.”
 
Sarah isn’t alone in facing increased mental health challenges due to food insecurity. Food insecurity, and the increased mental health risks it brings, are a persistent concern across Utah. 511,000 of our neighbors don’t always know where their next meal will come from. That makes food insecurity one of Utah’s leading health and nutrition issues. Going hungry doesn’t just hurt your stomach; it hurts every aspect of your life. In addition to the negative impact on physical health, food insecurity is associated with cognitive problems, behavioral problems, aggression, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
 
Mothers and children, in particular, are at high risk of experiencing traumatic effects on their mental health. Food-insecure mothers have more than two times higher rates of mental health issues than fully food-secure mothers. The odds of behavioral problems among children with food-insecure mothers are double those among children with food-secure mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that mothers with school-aged children who face severe hunger are 56% more likely to have PTSD and 53% more likely to have severe depression.
 
The domino effect of food insecurity on one’s mental health and family relationships wasn’t lost on Sarah, “The stress of not having enough food, what that did to me and my husband…I can’t really even put it into words. We felt so helpless and overwhelmed. My husband felt like it was his fault, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to him about it because I didn’t want him to feel bad, so there was this stress and rift in our relationship when we also had the stress of a newborn baby. We felt so alone. We’re still fighting to come back from that place.”
 
There is more to good mental health than having enough to eat – but when you can feed yourself and your loved ones, you are in a better place to cope with other mental health challenges. If you are struggling with food insecurity, please know that you don’t have to fight it alone. Utah Food Bank is here to help. Click here to find out about the resources available to you.
 
If you would like to join us in fighting hunger and making Utah a healthier, happier place, click here to donate now.

 


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