Like many food banks across the country, the Utah Food Bank is currently facing an ugly situation: demand has surpassed its supplies.
In October the Salt Lake Tribune reported that donations to the food bank were up five to 10 percent compared to donations received at this time in 2007. However, from July to September the bank distributed 5.6 million pounds of food. It only received 4.5 in donations.
“It’s been alarming at how quickly the demand has risen,” bank executive director Jim Pugh told the paper. “I’m confident the community will support us as they have in the past, but we’re going to need even greater support.”
At least for the time being, this rise in demand is also bad news for the many pantries the food bank serves—pantries including the one at the Utah AIDS Foundation which provides food to people with AIDS, an economically vulnerable group the economy has hit especially hard.
“What we’ve noticed this last three months this quarter is our increase has been twelve percent in clients who are needing to access the food bank, and our donations are way down,” said Duane Abplanalp, Client Services Coordinator at UAF.
“The trend we’re seeing is that the cost of [AIDS] medications remains as high, and yet people are stressing like we all do with buying gas and [paying for] utilities,” he continued. “So I think that’s lead to the increase of people having to come here who are normally pretty self reliant, just to bridge that gap.”
According to Abplanalp, the Utah Food Bank sends them a shipment once each week. In the past, he said UAF was able to request the items they needed.
“They send us what they can now,” he said. And while the foundation gets a varied mix of food items some weeks, sometimes it gets large numbers of the same food item.
To accommodate for the shortfall, UAF’s food bank has had to limit clients to one bag of groceries per week—although during a good week they can sometimes take home two, or even three.
According to Abplanalp, approximately 70 percent of the food bank’s clients have identified the bank as their only source of food.
Along with fewer grocery bags, people with HIV/AIDS who use the food bank are also facing another problem: meeting their specific dietary needs.
“We received a lot of sweetened breakfast cereal and starchy stuff, but clients with HIV need high protein food in their diet, and that’s been down. We got a bunch of peanut butter, but that’s it,” said Abplanalp.
Additionally, sometimes people with HIV/AIDS are too ill to cook, making donations of ready made meals such as beef stew, chili and anything that can be prepared easily and quickly crucial.
Further, said Abplanalp, people with HIV/AIDS also need to eat foods that are high in nutrients, because they are often have small appetites, or are unable to eat very much.
Along with canned meats and meals, the UAF food bank’s Web site also lists baking items such as cake mix, flour, yeast, shortening, sugar and seasonings as its much-needed items. Aplanalp encouraged individuals to bring these and other food items directly to the food bank at 1408 South 1100 East.
The UAF Food Bank is open Wednesdays from 12—6:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. To access the food bank or to get more information about donating call Duane Abplanalp at (801) 487-2323 or toll free at (800) 965-5004. He can be reached by email at [email protected]