Salt Lake Community College held the public presentation “Food for Thought Lectures” which showed that hunger in Utah is real and that could affect any of us at some point in our lives. The goal of the presentation is to increase understanding and inform about resources available to tackle this ongoing problem.
The presenters included Lorna Koci, executive director of Bountiful Community Food Pantry and Walt May, program manager of Utah Food Bank.
They spoke Tuesday Nov. 19, at the SLCC Student Event Center on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. “Food for Thought Lectures” is part of the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week hosted by SLCC during Nov. 18 – 22, 2013.
Koci says that hunger is a real and ongoing problem in Utah. According to Koci, in the U.S., 18.2 percent of households are struggling with hunger. By contrast, in Utah 14.8 percent of households are not able to find enough food on daily basis.
Koci indicated that hunger is a direct product of poverty. By 2010, in Utah, there were about 362,689 of people in poverty which is 13.3 percent of the population.
Factors such as being a single parent, having children with disabilities, serious sickness, unemployment and so on increase the chances of falling prey to poverty and eventually may lead families to hunger.
“Hunger in Utah is a real issue,” Koci says.
She says that hunger is a very serious problem because it causes a permanent impact on people. It decreases human potential causing the individual to get sick more often and reduces his or her ability to learn and grow normally.
Fortunately, there are many resources available that provide different tools and means to counterattack hunger in Utah.
“There are about 80 emergency pantries around Utah which benefit at least 30,000 households,” Koci says. “They are supported by Utah Food Banks, churches, private companies and government.”
Koci explains how the Bountiful Community Food Pantry is taking the lead in providing food and training to families in need.
“We work closely with households who need access to food pantries,” Koci says.
Koci says that the Bountiful Community Food Pantry provides such access to more than 500 households a month providing them around 2.2 million pounds of food during the year.
Koci says that many people do not know where to get help if they are suffering hunger.
“We work continually to let people know that we are here,” Koci says.
Koci indicates that, although food assistance remains as the primary goal, the Bountiful Community Food Pantry has expanded its mission in assisting individuals who are in unfavorable situations such as sick, unemployed or physically challenged.
“We have dentists who volunteer their services to people who cannot afford dental work done,” Koci says. “We have volunteers who do taxes for free, and we provide budgeting classes to families.”
“There are many ways to help and we are fortunate to have abundance of food in our state,” Koci says.
Koci says that their intention is to create a friendly environment that fosters cooperation among different organizations in providing easy access to families in need.
“Sometimes we get more food than we are able to distribute,” Koci says.
Koci says that they want to avoid wasting food so they partnered with other pantries and organizations to make surplus available to others.
Utah Food Bank sponsors the Bountiful Community Food Pantry and works along with several other pantries around the state in making accessible food to families in need.
“The mission of the Utah Food Bank is to fight hunger statewide,” Walt May says.
May explains that their network of food sources includes local commercial donations, groceries rescues, government commodities, food drives and national donations.
May indicated that with such reliable sources of food the Utah Food Bank is able to provide several programs such as Kids Café (daily after-school meals for children), BackPack (weekend meals for school children), Food Boxes (food for seniors and disabled persons), Mobile Pantries (food delivered in remote areas or difficult access).
“The last year we were able to distribute over 38.3 million pounds of food, the equivalent of more than 28.4 millions meals in Utah,” May says.
May says that they are going to continue supporting such programs because they have seen their good outcomes.
May indicated that they will partner with the SLCC’s food pantry at the South City Campus which will benefit many students in need.