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Utah Food Bank serving more first-time users during pandemic uncertainty

FILE: Jose Magallanes hands a bag of food to Chris Tibbitts as they prepare to hand out food from the Utah Food Bank in the parking lot of a chapel belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Taylorsville on Monday, April 13, 2020. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Food Bank has seen a swell in the number of people using their service all while dealing with unique challenges during the COVID 19 pandemic.

The food bank’s executive director, Ginette Bott, says they have seen double or triple the amount of people coming to the food bank, and predicts food insecurity in Utah will jump over 40% by the end of 2021.

Bott says that a lot of those they have been seeing now are first-time users who come with mixed emotions.

“You see so many mixed emotions, the first one is a relief because they have products they can use for several weeks and that their kids will enjoy. But also uncertainty, because they don’t know if that restaurant or that facility where they were working will come back online.”

Vehicles snake around the parking lot of a chapel belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to pick up food from the Utah Food Bank in Taylorsville on Monday, April 13, 2020. The line continues on the street. The Utah Food Bank estimates they provided food to around 400 families at this location. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

She says that this increase comes at a time when people are in need, are trying to help those people while staying safe in the food bank with no volunteers anymore, only staff.

Bott also says that they’ve seen some creative donations to the food bank that saved some products from spoiling.

She says they’ve seen the equivalent of nearly 200,000 gallons of milk that would have gone bad turned into butter and cheese.

They’ve also seen truckloads of potatoes from Idaho and California that were turned into potato flakes. 


Bott says the food bank has adapted to try and keep everyone healthy by moving to a mobile distribution system.

“You stay in your car, you drive through the line, and you come up to a person directing traffic. They ask you how many people in your household, and how many are under 18. They load the food into the back, and you go on your way.”

You can hear the full conversation with Ginette Bott on Utah’s Morning News below.