‘Starting to feel the pinch’: Utah food bank sees growing demand as grocery prices soar

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(ABC4) – The prices of almost all consumer products seem to be increasing. Groceries are no exception to hiking and can be the hardest for some families to digest.

An article by CNN Business earlier this week cites data from Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources Inc. (IRI) showing the cost of meat, seafood, produce, grains and other treats all rose 9% over the past year.

As the pandemic, along with supply chain and labor shortages, continue to linger, the effects many will feel on their wallets after a visit to the store may continue to grow.

Utah Food Bank workers have already seen more and more local families take advantage of its services. Even before the last spike in grocery prices, fitting food funds into a budget was hard enough for the Utah family, says food bank president Ginette Bott.

“They check their budget and there’s always a list of things to take care of before they eat,” she told ABC4.com, mentioning other expenses such as mortgages, housing, transportation, child care and health issues. “Food keeps falling on this budget list, so we’ve always been able to see families facing this budget issue. But now, that’s all the more true because grocery prices are rising so rapidly and, on some items, so incredibly high.

According to Bott, the growing need for Utah families to pick up a bag of groceries from the food bank is evident. Typically, when the Bank hosts a mobile food pantry with drive-thru, workers serve around 375-400 families. During the last distribution on Monday in Taylorsville, the food bank helped about 600 people.

It’s possible, says Bott, that many of the people who now need a helping hand from the food bank are people you might not expect to get food aid. However, like judging a book by its cover, it is not possible to know exactly what a person may experience financially when they arrive at a mobile pantry.

“We can’t look at someone and say they’re hungry,” Bott says. “When you look at someone and think, ‘Oh my God, they’re driving a really expensive car. Why are they coming for food? Well, the thing is, we don’t know the whole story. Maybe being that they borrowed that car, maybe that car is ready to be repossessed, we don’t understand that kind of stuff, but a family that’s always had financial stability, even they’re starting to feel the pinch. Now, regarding food and some products.

The Utah Food Bank makes a point of never turning anyone away. Even if demand is extremely high, workers will at least find something for everyone, according to Bott. However, donations in the form of food, volunteer time and money are still needed and accepted. This will be especially important now that the Holiday Bank surplus will soon be exhausted or expire.

Being aware that many may be struggling to put food on the table these days can be greatly appreciated, adds Bott.

“Items your family appreciates in your home are exactly the items another family would also like. When you shop, shop for another family too,” Bott suggests. “You can bring it to a local food pantry, you can take it to the food bank, most grocery stores have a bin by the front door, you can leave the product there and it comes to us.”

Some of the most needed foods in the food bank are meat, which is both in high demand and in short supply lately, and child-friendly foods that are easy to prepare for a young person or teenager.

It’s going to take a team effort to help Utah families through a tough time at grocery stores, but Bott is optimistic the community is up to the task.

“We recognize that the fight against hunger will not be accomplished by any one entity alone and so we appreciate everyone who collaborates and participates and truly joins us now in the fight against hunger.”

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