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Inflation sending more Utahns to the Food Bank

May 26, 2022, 7:00 AM | Updated: 7:33 am
Photo credit: Utah Food Bank...
Photo credit: Utah Food Bank

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Food Bank supplies 330 food pantries across the state, and they are as busy now as they were at the height of the pandemic. Why? Inflation.

“Pre-pandemic we were doing about 48 million pounds of food per year,” Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank said. “Then we saw it escalate to about 70 million pounds, and we thought ‘This is going to go down.’ But it did not go down. We’re still at the 70 million pounds mark.”

Food is the first thing that gets cut

And the future does not look good.

“Some of the programs that were in place for people during the pandemic are starting to go away,” Bott said, “and if inflation continues, our numbers are only going to go up because food is always the first thing that gets cut from a budget. You have to have the car to get to the job. You have to put gas in that car. We look at the price of food. If you don’t have the money to pay, you put things back. Less food is going home to a family for the same money. They can only do that for so long before they have to turn to assistance.”

What programs are going away?

“Some of the programs for our kids in schools,” Bott explained. “Waivers were removed so anyone could qualify for a free lunch. Then we had programs for kids in the summer when anyone could qualify for a free lunch, and now those programs have come back and put in place criteria that is much stricter. Now we have to determine which kids will qualify for the free lunch when for the last two years everyone qualified. Now, we have to go back to 2019 and determine from a cost perspective and number-of-people-to-serve perspective, and it’s really hard to do when you don’t have any adequate or current or accurate data to go by.”

Inflation hits the Food Bank directly

Inflation is not just something that affects the people the Utah Food Bank serves.

“The food and products and costs are always impactful. There’s a ripple effect,” Bott said.

“We can buy direct from the manufacturer. It’s different from you buying at the store. I think the biggest impact to us is transportation costs. You and I are feeling one vehicle a week in our household. I have 70 vehicles on the road every day. So, fuel is without a doubt our largest and most challenging expense… But we have to have those trucks on the road. You can’t cut a route because you’re impacting multiple families.”

How can we help?

“Kids will be out of school soon,” Bott pointed out, “and will not have that school breakfast and lunch they’ve depended on. So, we ask people to be mindful of the summer months. We find that we need those food donations now more than ever, even more than the holidays. Food, time and money are the three things that we’ve asked for for a very long time. Volunteers are great for us. If I had to hire staff to replace the volunteers, we had in any given year it would probably be about 60 full time people, and we don’t have that kind of money. So volunteering is crucial.”

Related: Springville Utah Food Bank groundbreaking part of expansion

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Inflation sending more Utahns to the Food Bank