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1 in 8 Utah homes struggle to afford enough food

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A new study finds one in eight Utah homes struggles to afford enough food.

The Food Research & Action Center said the national average for "food hardship," the inability to afford food, was 16 percent in 2015. In Utah, that number is 12.9-percent. Breaking down the numbers it found the Ogden-Clearfield area was close to that at 15.6 percent, while Provo-Orem had the lowest food hardship rate at nearly 10 percent. The Salt Lake City area was 15 percent.

Gina Cornia, the executive director of Utahns Against Hunger, said the people the study highlighted are not homeless, or even in poverty. They're people who pay their bills but hit a point where it's tough to put food on the table and are forced to turn to community pantries for help. They make too much to qualify for food stamps or other government benefits, but don't make enough to cover everything.

"They're making those dollars stretch. They're paying their rent, they're paying their mortgage, they're paying their gas to get to work, they're paying their daycare costs," she told FOX 13. "All of those just really make it difficult for those low wage workers to make ends meet."

Cornia said the numbers may also be lower in Utah because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides food to those in need through its network of Bishop's Storehouses. The LDS Church does not share information on how many it serves, she said.

While food pantry donations swell around Thanksgiving and Christmas when people feel most generous, Cornia said summertime is often when people feel the most need. Food banks also report an increased demand -- with the least resources.