December 1, 2011

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Recession Hits Home

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Recession Hits Home

Social Service Providers Struggle to Help Impoverished Families

Heather Stewart

December 1, 2011

The Utah Food Bank also runs several programs aimed at feeding children who are at risk for hunger. The Kids Café serves after-school meals to children who qualify for free breakfast and lunch at school. The after-school meal ensures that lunch is not the last meal of the day for these children. Another program sends backpacks full of kid-friendly food home with children to make sure they have meals over the weekend.

The Utah Food Bank provided 17,865 backpacks last year. “That’s probably the program where we’re going to see the most growth,” says Bott. “We want to make sure every child who qualifies has the opportunity to receive a backpack.”

Seniors have unique challenges when it comes to keeping the fridge stocked. Some elderly people simply don’t have family support networks or the mobility to leave their homes and go shopping. And seniors who are living on a fixed income may not be able to make their money stretch through the entire month.

Volunteers for the Utah Food Bank distribute about 1,400 boxes of food each month to seniors in the community. It’s enough food to last a week or 10 days—just enough to get them through the end of the month, Bott explains.

With the help of local businesses, the Utah Food Bank has mostly been able to meet the growing need. Many companies host summer food drives to keep contributions flowing during slower months. And Bott is quick to point out that financial donations are greatly appreciated as well. “We have such buying power that we’re able to turn every dollar donated into $7 in goods and services.”

 

Doing More with Less
Catholic Community Services of Utah is also on the frontlines, working with the local homeless population and operating a food pantry in Ogden. The agency reports that more people are coming through the door looking for help, but there are fewer resources to go around.

“There has been a massive impact in the last few years. We’ve had incredibly larger amounts of clients coming in,” says Lauren McCarty, spokesperson for Catholic Community Services.

“We see professionals—the kind of people who had a job a couple of months ago and had everything together, and then suddenly find themselves in need of our services. In our soup kitchens, we’ve seen more families coming in. The stack of high chairs in the corner is very disheartening.”

And along with increased demand has come a drop in donations. With so many people hurt by the stagnant economy, it’s been harder for the agency to maintain its donor base. “People were enthusiastic about helping out at first, but the recession, dragging on, has hurt so many and the public has simply burned out,” says McCarty.

Everyone is being forced to do more with less—including the agency’s clients. The food bank is giving out less food to families during their allotted monthly visit to the pantry. Those families still have to make the food stretch through the whole month.

“Maybe there are a couple days at the end of the month they’re going hungry,” McCarty says, “and that would include the kids, too.”

Despite the challenges, the staff at Catholic Community Services remains dedicated to empowering people in need to achieve self sufficiency.

“What we do day to day could mean the difference between life and death for somebody in the most drastic cases,” says McCarty. “It can mean not going to bed hungry. Having a roof over your head. Having the outfit that can help you get a job.”

 

How to Get Employees Involved

  • Host office drives for food, back-to-school supplies or clothing (winter clothes for all ages or professional attire for job seekers)
  • Adopt a needy family for the holidays
  • Send volunteer groups to serve meals or prepare food at a soup kitchen
  • Give to an agency in lieu of providing a holiday gift to employees

 

Find out More:

www.utahfoodbank.org

www.theroadhome.org

www.ccsutah.org

 

 

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