Mixed results for food drive while demand for assistance stays high

May 16, 2022, 6:51 PM | Updated: Jun 10, 2022, 10:53 pm

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — After a two-year break because of the pandemic, the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive returned on Saturday with mixed results.

Preliminary numbers show some areas saw donations drop even as the demand for food assistance stays high in Utah.

“We’re still calculating numbers,” said Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “We do have Salt Lake numbers and we were down about 12%. St. George numbers are in and they’re down about 24%.”

That’s compared to the last Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive in 2019. Bott said they are still sorting through the donations and that she’s hoping the percentages improve.

The food drive relies on letter carriers to collect food across the state. It’s one of the largest, single-day drives in the nation.

One bright spot of the food drive: Tabitha’s Way Local Food Pantry in American Fork.

“We did about three times more,” said Kara Smith, the pantry’s community outreach coordinator.

The food pantry is busy sorting through the large increase in donations compared to 2019. The pantry said letter carriers in American Fork, Lehi and Pleasant Grove collected the donations.

“More than half of our donations came from Lehi,” Smith said.

Smith attributes the increase in donations to a rapidly growing population in north Utah County.

Pantry at Tabitha’s Way in American Fork.

The extra food comes at a good time as the pantry is seeing more families stop by for food.

“We’re actually up 200 to 300 more families a month that are coming in for food,” Smith said.

During the pandemic, demand for food assistance across Utah nearly doubled and hasn’t dropped.

“We were so hopeful when COVID kind of quieted down a bit people would get back to what we call ‘normal,’” Bott said. “But that didn’t happen because of inflation. All of sudden, grocery prices went up, gas prices went up.”

In the years leading up to the pandemic, the Utah Food Bank distributed around 43 million pounds of food a year. That jumped to more than 70 million pounds during the pandemic, and this fiscal year, which ends next month, the food bank is on track to distribute around 68 million pounds.

Even with donations down in some areas, Bott said the fact that the food drive happened makes it successful and thanked the letter carriers for their hard work.

“Saturday was a great day,” Bott said. “We have to remember that two years had passed since we did this kind of event.”

She said Utahns can still help by giving food, time or money. For more information, visit the Utah Food Bank website.

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Mixed results for food drive while demand for assistance stays high