Food pantries feeling the brunt of high housing costs; donations needed

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — High housing costs are driving more and more Utahns to food pantries, and with the holidays around the corner, they need donations.

Come 6:00 every night, dozens of people have lined up outside of the Bountiful Community Food Pantry.

Inside, they check in and anxiously wait for their number to be called and their turn to get groceries.

“We’re extra busy right now because of Thanksgiving time coming up,” said Executive Director Lorna Koci. “It’s also winter, and the need for food assistance gets greater as the weather gets colder.”

As each client’s number is called, they get up and head toward a line of shopping carts, each one’s basket filled with plastic grocery bags.

“One item from this shelf, three items from this shelf,” a volunteer explained the system as she pointed out small laminated signs on each shelving unit. “The more family members you have, the more items you can take.”

As they make their way around the set path, they find everything they would at a typical grocery store, freezer sections full of meats, an aisle dedicated to different canned foods and bread, a fridge full of dairy, even a few treats, like breakfast sweets and cakes.

Additional options provide dog or cat food for pet owners, diapers, wipes and formula for families with babies, and this week, a special turkey for Thanksgiving.

“We give them about a week's worth of food at a time,” Koci said as people inside piled their carts as high as they could.

On the rack, some items are limited.

“We need canned vegetables, we need chili, we need tuna fish, we need soup,” Koci listed the pantry's hot ticket items.

But what really sets this apart from your standard grocery store is the need.

“We’ve had a growth from last year to this year of 23 percent in the number of people coming for food assistance here,” Koci said.

The boom, they believe, is fueled in part by high housing costs in the greater Salt Lake area.

“As the housing costs increase in the better economy, what that results in is a wider gap," Koci said. "Those people can’t keep up with the housing costs; they’re having to go other places for help."

The Bountiful Community Food Pantry already distributes more than 2 million pounds of food every year, now with a huge influx in customers, they need more donations to keep up.

“We’re saying lots of prayers,” Koci said.

No matter how many extra people they see, one thing is certain.

“No one is going home without food,” Koci said.

Koci said the need doesn’t stop with their pantry. This time of year is when food pantries everywhere are utilized the most. They encourage everyone to donate, they also say each food pantry has a list of specific items they need more than others.

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