Intensifying hunger pain concerns plague Carbon County area, state
Price councilmembers were given the hard facts last Wednesday about the growing hunger problem facing both county and state residents.
The presentation, given by Janeal Ford, development director for the Utah Food Bank, demonstrated how severe the need is throughout Utah what the state services agency is doing to combat hunger problems.
According to Ford, one in 10 Utahns currently live in poverty, including one in eight children. A Utah family of four living in poverty makes slightly more than $20,600 a year to cover health, shelter, food and other household expenses.
"We are seeing a huge increase in the amount of food service demand statewide," said the bakn services director. "And the middle income family is where the majority of this new demand is coming from. Their middle income salary is just not providing what it was in the past."
Ford cited increasing fuel costs as the catalyst for a cyclical problem. As fuel increases the cost of food due to transportation, it also increases the cost of getting to the job site for working class families.
Utah is ranked fifth in the nation for the highest rate of food insecurity, according to the Utah Food Bank's website at www.utahfoodbank.org.
Meaning that more than 345,700 individuals are a risk of missing or skipping a meal because of lack of resources.
And while more than 134,000 Utahns presently receive food stamps, the website claims that number is not even half of the citizens who are eligible.
Ford detailed problems the state's food bank services program is facing due to the large increase in demand for assistance.
"The food bank collected more than than 18 million pounds of food in the last year and, basically, the space we have is no longer adequate," said the director.
The program is planning new facilities to meet the growing need. According to Ford, the program hopes completion will come in time to supply the demand.
Locally, the more than four and one-half semi loads of food delivered to Carbon County last year had problems meeting the local need.
The local food bank serves more than 275 families per month. The number continually increases, meaning that as much as 12 to 18 pallets per month come down from the state headquarters.
The Utah Food Bank gathers food through a variety of programs including:
â¢Food drives, where statewide local agencies collect more than three million pounds.
â¢Grocery rescue, where the program has built partnerships with local grocers allowing them to obtain food that is near expiration. This allows the food bank access to perishable foods including fruit and dairy products.
After collection the food is sorted at the food services warehouse and then distributed throughout the state to more than 240 pantries, churches, senior centers, after school programs and group homes. However, even with all this service people are still slipping through the cracks.
To combat the growing issue, food bank officials have instituted a variety of programs at the state level to supplement their regular food pick-up services.
As hunger can affect a child's physical, emotional and behavioral development as well as his or her ability to socially interact with others. To address childhood hunger and the need for adequate access to food and nutrition, Utah Food Bank Services, in association with America's Second Harvest developed a Kid's Cafe program in 2000.
"The program not only provides weeknight dinner meals to low-income youth, but also teaches nutrition classes to help children and their families lead healthier lives. The 17 Kid's Cafe sites include elementary schools after school programs where at least 50 percent of the children qualify for fee or reduced price school lunches and breakfasts," states the site.
At East Carbon's Bruin Point Elementary, the poverty level is such that the entire school is given free lunch.
"The percentage here was so high that the school was given the assistance as a whole because so few parents would by paying for their students lunch," said Bruin Point secretary Ricki Palmer.