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Utah Volunteer Has Helped Provide 7 Million Meals

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – One in eight children in Utah goes hungry each day, likely more than that because of COVID-19.

A Utah man who has faced many challenges is hoping to change that through helping his community.

Ginger, turmeric and lemon are the ingredients Jose Valladares’ grandmother used to stay healthy. “I drink this tea every day,” said Valladares, who lives in West Valley City.

Jose Valladares makes the tea his grandmother taught him to make to boost his immunity. He wants to stay healthy so he can continue fighting hunger.

“It’s very strong.” He drinks it to boost his immunity so he can keep feeding Utah’s Hungry.

“I feel protected.” Valladares runs two mobile food banks each week. He’s helped provide 7 million meals to Utahns so far. “So many people lost their jobs and lost them quickly. So many people who are coming to us are actually first time users who have never had to ask for help before,” said Ginette Bott, President and CEO, Utah Food Bank.

In the past they served about 500 people each morning. Now that number has shot up to 700 or more because the need is so great during the pandemic.

“When I pray to God, I have asked him if I can be an angel here on earth,” Valladares said.

For his 3,300 hours of volunteer work, and for inspiring others to see the benefits of service, this year he earned the AARP Andrus Award for community service.

Jill duke, Community Outreach Director, AARP Utah, said, “You’re able to be in your community, you’re able to be with other people, and it just really is a very important thing to get out and help others, because it always makes you feel better.”

Jose knows what it’s like to be hungry. He grew up poor in Honduras.

Jose Valladares grew up poor in Honduras. Now he’s using those difficult experiences to help his community.

“I remember just laying down on the bed at home and me dreaming about finding money to buy food,” Valladares said. “You go to sleep hoping that when you wake up, a miracle happens.”

He relied on a food bank when he first came to the U.S.

“I felt embarrassed. It made me think, ‘I don’t want people to feel that way,’” he said.

Now, Jose is that miracle for people like Jalene Ingersoll.

“I help about six to eight families on top of my family with the food that I get,” said Ingersoll, who lives in Magna.

Jose is honoring his legacy by paying it forward.

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health. If you’d like to volunteer in your community, visit https://createthegood.aarp.org/.

If you’d like to help pay for the food that is donated, visit UtahFoodBank.org.

Every dollar you give equates to $7.66 worth of goods and services, according to staff at the Utah Food Bank.

 

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