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The Utah Food Bank braces for a challenging holiday season

 Kids in line to get food.
Utah News Connection

The Utah Food Bank is responding to what it calls record levels of need for food assistance across the state. Lingering economic effects of COVID-19 compounded by rising inflation are presenting challenges for many Utah families as winter arrives.

A survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation reports Thanksgiving dinners will cost 20% more this year than last.

Utah Food Bank President and CEO Ginette Bott said this is shaping up to be a holiday season like no other, as the clients they serve are changing.

"But now, we're seeing people that are coming to us for a need for food, who, one, have never asked before; two, have jobs and are pretty stable; and three, the inflation now is the issue that seems to be impacting those families we've never had to help before," Bott said.

Bott said it's important to mention the highest spike in need is typically seen during the summer months, when many Utah kids do not get to eat breakfast and lunch at school. She added the need for assistance over the holiday season also seems to increase as families use the funds they would normally spend on food, on other things.

The Utah Food Bank distributed about 67 million pounds of food last year, or about 56-million meals.

Bott said she appreciates the community support - and now more than ever, food banks need donations of food, volunteer time or money.

Bott said $0.97 of every dollar raised by the Utah Food Bank goes back into the community. When it comes to battling statewide hunger, she said needs are different and there is no one solution.

"So, we have to remember that not every single person who's hungry can be taken care of by one simple thing. It takes a multitude of tasks — of people, of donations, of time and of compassion," she said.

While it's too early to say in this holiday season if donations are down, Bott said inflation is also affecting the level at which donors can give. She encourages families who can donate to use this moment to teach their young ones about the importance of giving and "paying it forward" to others who are struggling.