Community Action Food Bank benefits from Feed Utah drive
Food donations collected during the Feed Utah food drive at the LDS Northridge Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an example of the abundance of donations the food bank received this year. March 22, 2021.
Piles of non-perishable food brought to the Northridge Stake building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Orem. Food donations from just this one source were about 10 pounds per number of stake members. March 22, 2021.
In a time when jobs are being lost and money, food, utilities and rent are scarce, it is particularly gratifying to Tom Hogan, to see residents come through by helping others.
Hogan, director of the Community Action Services Food Bank, knows better than most how donations of non-perishable food can go a long way to help families.
On Saturday, the Feed Utah food drive was held throughout the state. Approximately 244,297 pounds of food was collected just in Utah County. That food came to Community Action Services, according to Hogan.
In a normal month, the food bank collects about 280,000 pounds of food through all of its regular partner sources.
Thanks to groups like members of the Northridge Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints, the food bank is able to serve many more residents needing a hand up.
“Northridge Stake in Orem normally collects 9,000 pounds of food during this (annual) food drive,” said Karen McCandless, director of Community Action Services, singling out just one of many LDS stakes throughout Utah County which participated in the effort Saturday. “They brought in 46,000 pounds this year. That’s around 10 pounds per person in the Northridge Stake.”
Food collected in Utah County, as part of Feed Utah, was 158,000 pounds more than normal, a 209% increase, according to Hogan.
“It’s amazing the donation spirit and what people are willing and capable of doing,” Hogan said. “I can’t believe the volunteer turnout with all that rain.”
The food bank supply is kind of a guess at any given time. When the LDS Church broke away from the Boy Scouts of America, there was concern those food drives would diminish in huge proportions.
The opposite is true, according to Hogan. When the LDS Church broke with the BSA, the food drive assignment in the case of the Northridge Stake, as an example, was given to the stake’s Relief Society president.
The Relief Society, as its name suggests, is the largest women’s relief organization in the world. Their theme is “charity never faileth.”
“We are so lucky,” Hogan said. “We had to empty the cardboard box cages to find a place to store the food.”
Hogan said his next big step is getting volunteers to sort the food. But first he has to get his head around the bounty in his food bank facility.
“We are blown away by the generosity of residents in this area.” Hogan said.
He believes the uptick in donations is coming because people are wanting to engage with their community again and this is one way they can give service.
The BSA food drive and Letter Carriers food drive will be later this spring. Typically the Scouts bring in 50,000 pounds of food and the Letter Carriers about 100,000 pounds of food.
“We feel we are in the seven years of plenty,” Hogan said referencing the Biblical story of Joseph of Egypt storing grain during seven years of plenty, for times of famine.
Hogan said canned foods, except tomato-based products, are good to eat up to five years past the sell-by date. During this recent food drive, the food bank received lots of canned chicken, tuna and boxes of macaroni and cheese.
The food delivered to Community Action Services also helps smaller food banks throughout the valley and typically Wasatch County food banks.
This year Wasatch County brought in 13,000 pounds of food for its local food bank, much higher than normal.
Feeding America reported that “before the COVID-19 crisis began, food insecurity in the U.S. was the lowest it had been in more than 20 years.” Now, however, “millions of people are newly experiencing food insecurity.”
In Utah County, for example, the food insecurity rate in 2018 was 10.6%. In 2020, that number had risen to 12.8%. But, at Community Action Services and Food Bank, record-breaking generosity was recorded in 2020 and now that has even doubled in 2021.
Hogan said he wants the community to know how grateful the food bank is for the generous support, and officials promise to be wise stewards of the gift.