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The City Journals

Utah Food Bank to distribute 200,000 meals this summer

Jul 08, 2021 01:03PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Contents of a meal box given to kids by the Utah Food Bank this summer. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

What fits in a 10-inch by 8-inch by 7-inch box?

If you said 14 meals for a Utah child, you would be right.

As part of their Summer Food Service program, the Utah Food Bank provides meal boxes to individuals 18 and younger each week throughout Utah. The boxes are free and are design for one person for seven days—seven breakfasts and seven dinners. If a family has four children, they get four boxes. 

Each box includes a sample menu. For example, breakfast one is a cereal bowl and regular applesauce. For dinner two, the menu is cheddar cheese cup, sunflower kernels, MJM Pizza Crackers, flavored applesauce and vegetable juice. Other items on the menu are Pop-Tarts, barbecue chicken salad, breakfast bar, Jack Link’s Original Chicken Tender Bites, and beef sticks. The kids are given 14 small cartons of milk with their box.

These boxes are distributed in eight Utah counties, including Salt Lake County. 

Salt Lake County

In Salt Lake County, the Utah Food Bank provides hot meals at various locations Monday through Friday. The meals are prepared in the Utah Food Bank kitchen and delivered in electric hot boxes, which keep the food warm for up to four hours.

The Utah Food Bank can provide these 200,000 meals because they are partnering with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This partnership extends the Kids Café program throughout the summer. The 200,000 meals are served at 40 sites across the state.

Some programs are open sites meaning first come, first served. Other sites are enrolled programs that have specific requirements. There are 16 sites across the valley, including Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers and libraries. Libraries are included because the Utah Food Bank found that many children spend their days at the library but never had food.

A complete list and details like times, locations, and dates is available at www.utahfoodbank.org/SummerMeals/.

Utah Food Bank

“Most people, when they come home, they wonder what they are having for dinner. I drive home wondering if every child in Utah has a dinner,” Ginette Bott, president and CEO of Utah Food Bank, said.

The Utah Food Bank partners with 205 agencies across the state. In 2020, they distributed 62.5 million pounds of food at no cost to the receivers or the agencies. Utah Food Bank is the largest food distributor in the state.

Since 1904, the Utah Food Bank has tried to learn more efficient ways to obtain products and meet the needs of the people of Utah. With the increase in the refugee population, the Utah Food Bank has learned how to meet their dietary needs.

Utah Food Bank does not consider itself a transportation company nor a human need company.

“We just quietly go about feeding kids,” Bott said.

Bott mentioned that sometimes they are criticized for giving out ramen noodles. Her response is she would rather have a child’s belly full of noodles than having them cry because they are hungry.

Bott pointed out that the Utah Food Bank always needs food, time and money.

She also said if a person ever needs help, call 211 or go to the Utah Food Bank website.

Grocery Rescue program

The Grocery Rescuer program is a partnership with 270 grocery retailers. Retailers provide food that is nearing the expiration date but is still healthy and wholesome to eat.

Refrigerated trucks provided by the Utah Food Bank and partner agencies operate six days a week throughout the state, picking up the food donations. The food goes directly to food pantries to be distributed within 24 hours.

The donations primarily are daily consumables, including fresh produce, dairy and meat. Without this program, such items would end up in the landfill. In 2020, 16 million pounds of food was distributed to help end hunger.

Walt May, a program director, offered a way anyone can help with this program. May suggested that they will give you the freshest meat or cheese when you go to the deli at the grocery store. This allows the retailer to freeze the older meat and cheese and donate it to the program.

“Buying sliced deli meat or cheese helps feed people of Utah,” May said.