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Since pandemic started, Utah Food Bank sees hunger need triple

FILE: Utah Food Bank volunteers social distancing while packing supplies. Photo: Utah Food Bank via Instagram

SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders of the Utah Food Bank say they’ve seen a 300% percent increase in the need for food for hungry Utahns since the pandemic began.

If you are one of those hungry people and you haven’t asked for help before, how do you do it?

KSL NewsRadio reporter John Wojcik joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the dire food need, followed by Gina Cornia of Utahns Against Hunger who offered her perspective on seeking help.

Utah Food Bank need triples

 The Utah Food Bank, which is the largest nonprofit in the state, is giving away 6 million pounds of food a month — which is triple the demand since April.

Wojcik said the situation is good and bad. Bad that that many residents need to visit a food pantry every month to just feed themselves and their families, but good that the pantries in the state have been able to meet the level of hunger in the state.

“They’ve certainly had some good help from partners. They’ve had some large grocers step up and keep these pantries full throughout the state,” Wojcik said.

Stay safe, use the drive-thru

To keep Utah Food Bank visitors and workers safe during the pandemic, Wojcik said 43 pantries throughout the state utilize drive-thru delivery.

He wondered why the drive-thru option wasn’t available before the pandemic because it is so convenient.

“You drive right up, you get what you need and you’re on your way,” he said.

Meeting the need — so far

Debbie asked if Utah pantries are seeing long lines of hungry people seeking groceries as some cities have seen.

Wojcik said the Utah Food Bank distributes its products to roughly 200 pantries in all 29 counties in the state and because they are spread out the lines have not yet been long. 

He added that people and businesses who can help have been meeting the needs of the hungry for now, but he said during the holidays, and with so many residents unemployed, hunger is not a need that is going to go away — especially during the holidays.

Asking for help

Debbie said she was reading an article in Forbes that said asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Both Dave and Debbie asked Gina Cornia of Utahns Against Hunger how to ask for help.

“It’s hard to admit that you can’t feed your kids,” Cornia said. “It’s hard to admit that you can’t afford a gallon of milk or a box of cereal.”

“What we see in the data is parents will forgo feeding themselves to feed their kids,” she added.

Demand has been masked

Cornia said while the Utah Food Bank has experienced a 300% in need, that doesn’t reflect the hungry people being helped by other efforts outside the network of food-bank pantries.

“That’s not even to mention the assistance The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives families,” she said. “We don’t know what extent they’re responding to the need.”

The pandemic has revealed how fragile people’s finances are, she said.

Cornia added that people will forego food to pay rent because they don’t want to be evicted from their homes.

Related:

Utah Food Bank demand triples since April

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.