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Utah organizations fighting hunger receive big Walmart payout

Published: Thursday, Feb. 24 2011 6:50 p.m. MST

St Andrew Food Pantry volunteer Makay La Garcia (L) and other volunteers hold up a thank you banner at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. Walmart presented $1 million in grants to eight nonprofits as part of Fighting Hunger Together Facebook campaign.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A number of organizations fighting hunger in Utah have much deeper coffers, after Walmart paid the winners in its online “Walmart Fighting Hunger” competition. Still, much of the money is not slated to go toward purchasing food.

Salt Lake City won the contest and $1 million prize, beating out Fresno. Clearfield-Ogden was one of the other runners-up, hauling in $100,000. The Utah Food Bank said it planned to spend most of its $700,000 share on infrastructure, which in turn is expected to significantly increase distribution.

At the Utah State Capitol Thursday, Walmart presented jumbo-sized checks to eight Salt Lake organizations and two from Ogden.

“Today, we kick off the celebration,” Walmart regional general manager Karisa Sprague said to a large crowd of community leaders, reporters, photographers and workers from the various groups.

Gov. Gary Herbert praised Walmart for the contributions, and community members for helping to do their part.

“I think it’s indicative of Utah and Utah’s spirit — people helping each other and making life better as we’re able to contribute,” Herbert said.

The Utah Food Bank says infrastructure will make an impact longer than additional food stores. It plans to spend $115,000 on a forklift, electric pallet jack and scissor lift. It will spend $356,000 on a semi-truck and trailers, a refrigerated box truck and a multi-use vehicle to visit sites and assist with food drives.

“We are able to expand over the course of a year with one refrigerator box truck an additional 9 million pounds of food that would go to waste,” Utah Food Bank chief marketing officer Ginette Bott said.

The food bank plans to spend another $229,000 on a sorting room equipment upgrade, an expansion to the individual donor receiving area and more refrigerator and freezer space.

“To get food distributed across the state of Utah, it needs to be done through a means that is effective,” Bott said.

The Utah Food Bank is trying to meet rising need. It has been in its new facility on 900 West near 3200 South for 18 months, and workers say the building has helped increase distribution from 19 million pounds of food per year to 31 million pounds of food per year. Bott said the additions should help the food bank increase production to a projected 40 million pounds of food the next fiscal year.

The reach will expand as well.

“It will be great for us to get to San Juan County every other week versus once a month,” Bott said.

Among the other Salt Lake groups collecting checks was Salt Lake City Community Action Partnership ($75,000) and Utahns Against Hunger ($60,000).

Gov. Herbert said the day was about more than Walmart’s $1.1 million.

“All of us need to look outside of ourselves and see where we can contribute,” Herbert said.

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