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Nonprofits' Shelves Are Thinning, Too

Grocery stores unstocked due to panic-buying over the coronavirus.
The need is increasing, but food donations are slowing — if not stopping — according to Matt Whitaker, at the Cache Community Food Pantry.";s:

As the global coronavirus pandemic continues, more and more people are relying on the services of non-profits. UPR’s Kat Webb has been visiting with different non-profit leaders in Cache County and today, our news director, Matilyn Mortensen, had a conversation with her about what she’s been hearing.  

Matilyn Mortensen: Hey Kat, thanks so much for your time today. I understand that you've been visiting with a few different nonprofits throughout Cache County to kind of see how they're doing right now as they're addressing the global pandemic.

Kat Webb: Yes, I have. Thank you for inviting me, Mattie. It's been a bit of a wild ride for everyone. But some of the places that are feeling it most strongly are our community food pantries that assist several different organizations throughout the valley. I spoke with the director, Matt Whitaker, and he said right now they're doing okay, but they're really concerned moving forward because they've had to cancel their major food drive that they usually put on with the Boy Scouts of America. And so that really put a dent in their incoming food. And then they also pick up from grocery stores daily, like expired items or bruised fruit, things that just haven't sold — a lot of groceries stores will typically donate those. Right now everyone's rushing to the grocery stores, and they're selling out before they can donate. So it's really putting a dent in their stock.

MM: And you mentioned that this Cache Community Food Pantry is an organization that also helps other organizations in the valley. If I'm remembering right they're one of the providers for food at the pantry at Utah State University that serves students, faculty and staff.

KW: Yes, the food pantry donates to about a third of what goes into the Student Nutrition Access Center at USU. And that's something that college students, faculty, staff and their families can use when they may not have money for food, but they're hungry.

MM: So they're a large provider of food for that service at Utah State University. Is that service having food and are they able to continue providing the surface they've been providing?

KW: Yes, so I just spoke with someone at SNAC this morning and he said right now, they're doing pretty well. But, in the next week, they have to figure out where they're going to subsidize a large portion of their food. He said that farms are one possible recovery network. They did something similar last fall, where a third of the food from the farmers, the farmers kept, a third went to the Cache Community Pantry and then USU got a third. And so he's hoping that they'll be able to do something like that.

MM: Are they see a similar amount of people has it increased has it decreased, we know that some of the people from the campus community are leaving the area.

KW: It's interesting, but actually, he said that they're not seeing really much of a difference at all because their main clientele are people and students that don't have the economic mobility to leave the valley or travel that much, and so they're mostly campus-based individuals.

MM: OK, and so switching gears a little bit. I know you've spoken with CAPSA, which is the group in Cache Valley that folks on assessing people that have experienced abuse, can you tell me a little bit about what they're seeing at this time of social distancing and people being encouraged to stay home?

KW: Yes, I spoke with James Boyd at CAPSA, and he said while most shelters in the state are filling up, CAPSA has a little bit more wiggle room, and they are a zero-turn away shelter, but that is going to get stressed in the coming weeks. If they do have more and more people needing that. He said that they're trying to be creative right now. They already have some tools they're implementing, like technologically so that they can still do therapy meetings and telehealth meetings.

MM: Do they have any concern that they won't be able to maintain being a zero-turn away shelter?

KW: Donations are more what they're concerned about, especially since they typically would have gotten food donations from the Cache Community Food Pantry, as well.

MM: So it sounds like those through donations are something that a lot of organizations are filling whether directly or indirectly. 

KW: Mm-hmm. That is true. 

MM: And does CAPSA think that things are going to improve with them as maybe the pandemic winds down, or do they have concerns about what things are going to be looking like in the future?

KW: They're also expecting a massive uptick after the shutdown where people are no longer stuck at home and trapped in abusive cycles. They're expecting more people are going to come in after the coronavirus pandemic because they'll be freer to get help that they need.

MM: That makes sense. Well, Kat, thank you so much for your time. It was good to have you on today. We appreciate the reporting that you're doing for us.

KW: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It was great to be here.