Summer demand for food assistance surges just as donations drop
Jul 10, 2023, 6:27 PM
SPANISH FORK, Utah — With children out of school and eating more at home, food pantries across Utah are reporting a jump in demand, but at the same time, food donations have dropped off.
“As we look at numbers across the state, we’ve seen an increase, I would say, in almost every county,” said Ginette Bott, Utah Food Bank President & CEO. “Inflation has impacted our donors. Inflation has impacted our recipients, and we’re finding now we’re starting to see a bit of a collision.”
Bott explained that summer has always been a hard time meeting food assistance needs. But the difficulty this summer is more dramatic.
“Sometimes the people we are asking for donations now are becoming the folks we are having to help,” Bott said. “So the donation amount is coming down.”
In addition to inflation, Bott said the end of the pandemic-era boost to food stamps is also contributing to more people reaching out to food pantries for help.
In Utah County, Tabitha’s Way Local Food Pantry reports an unprecedented spike in families needing assistance, including middle-class households.
“That never needed a food pantry before coming in and saying, ‘I was the one who used to help. I can’t believe I’m here,” said Tabitha’s Way executive director Wendy Osborne. “And it’s hard. It’s hard for these families to have to ask for help. It’s a humbling experience.”
Tabitha’s Way has pantries in American Fork and Spanish Fork. They call this summer the perfect storm after Utah’s three largest food drives brought in 50% less food compared to last year.
“We don’t have cooking oil or flour or sugar. Some of the really basic necessities,” Osborne explained. “50% of the population we serve are children. So it’s families with little kids coming in and trying to get the food that they need to provide for their children, and it’s hard when they don’t have enough for them.”
Osborne said because individual and institutional donations are down, they are having to purchase more food than ever before.