Sanpete County Food Pantry Facing End-Of-Year Closure, Officials Say

Oct 4, 2019, 6:47 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 2:28 pm

MOUNT PLEASANT, Utah — Officials at the only food pantry in Sanpete County said it’s in danger of closing its doors by year’s end.

“We have seen a drop in revenue about 50% in the last, we will see that in the year to come,” said Sanpete Pantry Managing Director Sean Kearney. “We just can’t afford to do that anymore.”

According to Kearney, revenue sources have dried up for several reasons, and while they have the food, they can’t cover operational costs without the funds.

“We do the entire county, we do home deliveries for people who can’t get here, that are homebound or for whatever can’t come here, we provide 450 kid packs a month to students at risk,” he said.

Since 2013, the Sanpete Pantry, which is the county’s privately-run non-profit food bank, has provided meals for families in need across Sanpete County.

According to its website, it was “originally organized in the 1990s as Central Utah Food Share-Sanpete Pantry and was reorganized in 2013.”

The pantry serves about 12,000 people annually, distributing 30,000 pounds of food monthly, according to Kearney.

He said this translates to some 300 families per month.

Kearney also said while they’ve got plenty of food donations, thanks in part to a partnership with the Utah Food Bank, they just don’t have the cash to keep their doors open. He estimated the pantry needs between $50,000 and $70,000 to run annually.

“We have asked of the county $50-70K in revenue to help cover hiring a new Sanpete Pantry director — our previous one, unfortunately, passed away — and to help cover some of the costs that we will have to cover somehow with our loss in revenue,” Kearney said.

Funds would also be used to pay Pantry staff wages.

“We can not afford to keep paying our employees at the rate we’re going,” Kearney said.

Kearney pointed to several factors for the lack of funding.

One reason was the shutdown of a cardboard recycling initiative, with which they recycled and sold cardboard that ended due to a lack of volunteers and a drop in the paying price of cardboard.

Then, there was the shutdown of their sister non-profit organization Drive4Food, which raised funds for the Pantry after several key volunteers retired.

“Cardboard is one source, that was about 10%,” Kearney said. “Our reduction in donations has been about 20% of our budget and Dive4Food closing down is another 25-30% of our budget.”

Lastly, Kearney said they’re seeing a big drop in private donations. He thought this was due to changes in tax law, which made itemized charitable donations less appealing as standard deductions are now almost twice what they were previously.

“Some of that we believe is due to a change in the tax laws, less charitable deductions so people are donating less,” he said.

Kearney said the pantry has reached out to local cities and many have agreed to donate about $1 per family from their municipality served per year.

He says they’ve also reached out to Sanpete County officials. In the last few years, commissioners agreed to reimburse the pantry about $6,000 annually for utility costs. However, Kearney said this isn’t enough to keep the pantry running.

But with a surplus of $2.3 million in 2018, Kearney said the solution could be in the hands of Sanpete County.

“I think if anyone who is against this sort of thing, would bother to spend some time volunteering here, I think their outlook would change,” Kearney said.

If the pantry closes, Kearney said patrons would need to drive about an hour to Spanish Fork’s food pantry, which is open during regular business hours.

“We have heard speaking the talk that there are government programs that cover this sort of thing,” he said. “However, those government programs have been in place for years and yet we still feed almost 300 families a month, month after month, so they’re not succeeding.”

KSL 5 News reached out to Sanpete County Commission Chair Scott Bartholomew who said the county would not be providing comment at this time as they haven’t started their budgeting procedure and it would be premature to say the Sanpete Pantry will close at this time.

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Sanpete County Food Pantry Facing End-Of-Year Closure, Officials Say