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Hunger is invisible, but the Utah Food Bank knows it’s all around us

With the help of volunteers and donors, mobile program serves areas without traditional pantries.<br>

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers of the Utah Food Bank pack food boxes in the parking lot of the LDS Church at 1860 S. 300 E. in Salt Lake City Friday April 13. It's one of 18 locations the bank operates to get food out to the food insecure. An army of volunteers make the distrbution system work. Walmart, Feeding America and Utah Food Bank are teaming up during the month of April to fight hunger through an online and in-store donation campaign.

Hunger is hard to see.

Some 325,000 Utahns face it each day — one in five children in the Beehive State aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.

That’s why the Utah Food Bank’s mobile pantry makes 18 stops weekly in areas that are “food deserts,” or places not served by traditional food pantries.

On Friday, volunteers braved the chilly morning to distribute food boxes to about 120 families near 1800 S. 200 East in Salt Lake City.

Darcie Tew bundled up for the mobile pantry. A single mom, she has two daughters to feed.

“There are a lot of people who go without, especially the seniors,” she said. “I get food here and it fills in the blanks we can’t afford.”

Last year, the food bank distributed 39 million pounds of food — the equivalent of 32 million meals — to 149 emergency food pantries statewide, said Ginette Bott, the food bank’s chief developer officer.

In addition, it served over 45,000 people through 173 mobile pantry deliveries at those 18 locations.

The nonprofit agency depends on corporate and individual donors.

“We ask for three things,” Bott said. “Give food, give time, or give money.”

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers of the Utah Food Bank pack food boxes in the parking lot of the LDS Church at 1860 S. 300 E. in Salt Lake City Friday April 13. Each box has a variety of canned food, fresh vegetables and other staples. It's one of 18 locations the bank operates to get food out to the food insecure. An army of volunteers make the distrbution system work. Walmart, Feeding America and Utah Food Bank are teaming up during the month of April to fight hunger through an online and in-store donation campaign.

The mobile food pantry is not possible without volunteers, she added.

One such volunteer on hand Friday was Viliami Kaufusi, who was taking part along with others from the Liberty 3rd Tongan Ward.

“We help provide these things for anybody in the community,” he said. “We need to give our love and support to others.”

Steve Riddell appreciates that support. He’s on disability with severe back problems from an injury. His wife also is on medical disability. Nonetheless, they have two sons to feed.

“This program really helps out,” he said. “We don’t qualify for food stamps. It really helps us get by.”

For information on how to volunteer or donate, visit www.utahfoodbank.org.

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