Utah’s food banks, which already feed thousands of hungry people a day, are facing high demand and major challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic. Some reports in recent days say mobile pantries operated by the Utah Food Bank have run out before serving everyone in line, and many volunteers have been scared away by the coronavirus crisis.
Heidi Cannella, with the Utah Food Bank, an umbrella organization that supplies kitchens and food pantries across the state, said the demand for food has doubled almost overnight, forcing some changes in the way they do things.
"We have 200 partner agencies right now, so they're all handling that a little bit differently – limiting the number of people coming in, making sure people are sanitizing appropriately, taking food out to someone's car, if necessary."
She said they are taking C.D.C. safeguards at events, such as metering lines of people to maintain social distancing and not allowing large crowds. They're also ensuring hygiene precautions at distribution events, including hand-washing and protective gear.
Cannella said recent reports of grocery-store customers hoarding food and other products is concerning but doesn't make it more difficult for them to get supplies because most of their collection happens at a commercial level-- they aren’t going to a store to buy food from the shelves.
Cannella said in addition to feeding families dealing with lost jobs or cuts in work hours, her group is coordinating with Utah school districts so home-bound students have access to the breakfasts and lunches they normally receive on campus. She hopes Utahns will open up their hearts – and wallets – to help food banks fulfill their mission.
"People say, ‘What do you need right now?’ We need volunteers, following the guidelines. But the other thing we need is financial support because that will allow us to be flexible with how we're reaching our clients, our transportation costs."
To locate a food bank in your area, or donate your time or money, look online at 'UtahFoodBank.org,' or call the Utah 2-1-1 Information and Referral line. Other resources can be found here.