During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are reaching out for first-time assistance from the Utah Food Bank.
With that in mind, We wanted to share tips on how people all over the state can utilize this important food resource.
“Demand is like nothing we've ever seen before and I've been involved for many many years,” Ginette Dott said.
Ginette Dott heads the Utah Food Bank, which held its largest single food distribution event ever last week, in the Maverick Center Parking lot in West Valley City.
“It's so humbling when you stand in a parking lot with five thousand cars and you see a child that smiles because they have a carrot, or you see a mother that's crying because she'll be able to feed her kids for the upcoming days,” Dott said.
Over 29,000 people received food from the event and the food bank did not run out of product. Ginette says it was the first time for many of them.
“They've never been to a pantry or ask for this kind of help,” Dott explained.
Which begs the question, "Can the Utah food bank sustain the current demand?"
“We need to make sure no one is going without food because there are goods there are services and there are a lot of us here who can help,” Dott said.“We have many manufacturers who are here locally and close to us.”
Recent news reports have shown farmers dumping potatoes and other products they can't sell since big customers like restaurants, school cafeterias, hotels and cruise lines are no longer buying.
Can the Utah food bank use some of what's going to waste?
“Yes we can and yes we are,” Dott said. “We're now working with another partner who hopefully can take those potatoes and turn them into an instant potato product with a family-sized serving that will also have a shelf life so they can use it in the months to come.”
Some milk and dairy products are also being redistributed.
“The challenges that we have as an organization is when you look at pantries across the state of Utah some communities have a brick and mortar, others have a very small, perhaps a closet in a church so each facility in each county is not the same,” Dott said.
Dott wants to ensure people are aware of the services available to them.
“The biggest mistake you can make is not asking for that help. It's here, it's in communities across the state. All the individual has to do is call 2-1-1. It's toll-free. Give them your zip code. That entity will give all sorts of help in their neighborhood whether it's with food or rent or medical assistance. You don't have to give them a name if you're uncomfortable with that,” Dott said
Ginette speculates the Utah Food Bank will see an increased demand for the next 12 to 18 months. As we rebound from the effects of COVID-19.