Tabitha’s Way Local Food Pantry has been serving Utah County for almost 11 years and while donations are readily accepted to help fight hunger and food insecurity in the county, dumping at one of the many donation bins is actually costing the food pantry money.
Al Switzler, the co-founder of the Tabitha’s Way Local Food Pantry in American Fork, brought up an instance where Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, accepted a national award and asked people to put the shower curtain inside of the bathtub when showering at a Hilton hotel.
Switzler added that the issue with the dumping is not as bad, but it is costing the food pantry money to clean up the things being left at the donation bins.
When the first Tabitha’s Way was started in Spanish Fork, there was a thrift store that would sell items to help fund the food pantry and feed those who needed it.
Part of that work to raise money for the food pantry was some work with a company in Delaware, which distributed the bins across the county that are technically not a formal part of Tabitha’s Way.
“Our only charity is Tabitha’s Way, so we raise money for Tabitha’s Way to feed hungry people,” Switzler said. “People donate lots of good stuff and bless their hearts for their generosity. One of the challenges that we’ve had, with Deseret Industries only taking appointments, is that people are leaving lots and lots of stuff.”
The items that are accepted in the bins are listed on the bins and include clothing or fabrics, bedding, blankets, pillows, shoes, belts, bags, backpacks, purses and books.
Items that can’t be accepted at the donation bins include furniture, electronics, televisions, computer monitors, broken or unusable items, mattresses, car seats, strollers, swings, baby furniture, paint, chemicals and any hazardous materials.
“We are grateful for your donations of clothing and shoes, however, there are some items we cannot take,” the flyer from Tabitha’s Way says. “When you leave any of the items we cannot accept, it hurts our ability to fulfill our mission and help those in need. It is costly and time-consuming to clean up dumped items.”
Switzler said that despite listing the posters and acceptable items, people will fill the bins with cardboard, and a recent instance saw three bikes, a table and a fan left at a donation bin.
The plan, for now, is to put more stickers on the bins, but Switzler is hopeful that people can see how the bins are a big help for the food pantry but also can be a hindrance. The costs include the time it takes to haul the items away, the space needed to haul the items, and the extra dumpsters needed to throw the things away.
Affiliates with the food pantry will allow the bins to be placed in their parking lots to support the food pantry, but due to the piles of items being left some affiliates are asking for the bins to be removed.
Switzler said that the bins could provide enough resources to feed approximately 20% more people if things were not left at the bins.
He added that people have a good sentiment, but they need to do it the right way. Just the other day, the three bins in the Tabitha’s Way parking lot had items spread around the donation bins. In response, someone looking to donate items left them on the side of another business on the sidewalk.
Everyone in the complex knew the items were meant for Tabitha’s Way, according to Switzler, and it took two guys an hour and a half to haul it all away.
“You can have well-intended negative consequences,” Switzler said. “We realize that people aren’t being mean about it, or mean-spirited about it. I think there are some people that are moving and thinking that Tabitha’s Way will take that and they do it without thinking. Again, it costs us money, and with the donation, people give us we’d like to give all of that money to Tabitha’s Way to help fight food insecurity and hunger.”
The food pantry did feed about 85,000 people in 2020, providing food assistance for two weeks, which adds up to be about 1.8 million meals throughout the year.
It also was important for Switzler to remind people that Tabitha’s Way is not a thrift store and for more information on donations that are accepted, people can visit its website at http://tabithasway.org.