Scarcity of food donations despite the spread of hunger | News, sports, jobs

Isaac Hill, Daily Herald file photo

Volunteers Jeff and Jamie Dunbabin, both from Highland, load groceries into the family car at Tabitha’s Way North County Food Pantry on Friday, April 17, 2020, in American Fork.

Tiffany Skips, her disabled husband and their six children would live very different lives now, if not for food donations. “It would really be different. Once I think about it, I will have to spend more money just to get the necessities,” said Skips.

Skipps finds it difficult to work because her husband needs 24-hour care. Since he always needs someone with him, family money doesn’t stretch very far.

For the past several months, Skipps has been able to source food and other necessities at Tabitha’s Way Food Pantry in American Fork. “I can’t think of life without Tabitha. With me, being unable to get a job away from home, that’s where the great need lies.”

Getting food from the pantry is different than going grocery shopping. There isn’t always a lot of choice to make about what she should have, but Skipps is happy with what she is given to feed her family.

According to Mike Carter, co-founder of Tabitha’s Way in American Fork, there are a handful of families that operate the pantry. People who never thought they’d need help putting food on the table now find themselves providing necessities for their families through donations. The problem is that donations are decreasing.

Evan Cope, Daily Herald file photo

Donated items are placed in boxes in a storage pantry in Tabitha Road on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Spanish Fork.

“High inflation is causing a lot of problems for food pantries at the moment. The number of people receiving food is really high. We take in people who say they’ve never been to a pantry in their life, but they have to come now,” Carter said.

The store used to see about 15 to 20 new families a week. But in one week of this month, 44 new families came to the store.

“We had 18 new families one day, which we usually get within a week,” Carter said of American Fork. Tabitha’s Way in Spanish Fork is seeing similar numbers.

Carter said that while food prices remain high, many people are keeping grocery budgets the same. Therefore, using the same amount of money that they previously used to buy food, consumers get 10-15% less. This is one of the reasons why so many people need help.

However, food stores and food banks receive fewer and less food donations than grocery stores. “Lack of food from stores means we’re distributing less,” Carter said.

Isaac Hill, Daily Herald file photo

Natalie Lehmann, of the Alps, donates food items with her sons at Tabitha’s Way North County Food Pantry on Friday, April 17, 2020, in American Fork.

Another consequence of high inflation and tight budgets is that people have less surplus food to donate to stores. According to Carter, a typical food engine that used to produce 10 to 12 large loads of food now produces only about two to three such loads.

According to http://FeedingAmerica.org, 53 million people turned to food banks or other community services for food during 2021 while financial donations declined across the country. According to Carter, labor costs are higher for the store because they had to increase employee wages. “The cost of fuel has doubled. Many other things cost more. So it’s a perfect storm – demand is hugely high, costs are high, but the amount of food and financial donations is down.”

While the need for hunger continues to increase, food banks and stores will continue to try to keep up. The best way to help is to donate food and money so they can continue to feed the hungry. For more information about volunteering or donating food or money, people can visit Tabitha’s Way Food Pantries at http://tabithasway.org or Community Action Services and Food Bank at http://communityactionprovo.org.

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