Utah Food Bank gathers a mile of food to help beat hunger

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 3:55 p.m. MDT

Utah Food Bank volunteers worked more than nine hours to place donated cans and boxed foods along State Street in Satl Lake City Thursday Sept. 20, 2012. Workers began as early as 5:45 a.m. for the Beating Hunger By a Mile campaign.

Julian Reyes, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Commuters were treated to a burst of color on State Street Thursday as the Utah Food Bank lined up a mile's worth of canned and boxed food in an effort to beat hunger.

The Utah Food Bank began the food line at the Salt Lake City-County Building and gradually added food items throughout the day in an effort to reach the state Capitol by the end of the day. The goal was met by 3 p.m.

"For those of us feeding hungry folks, the summer is the busiest time for us," said Ginette Bott, chief marketing officer for the Utah Food Bank.

The purpose of the event was to prepare for the upcoming holiday season, as summer food supplies have been depleted. Summer was one of the busiest times of the year, because children who usually receive free breakfasts and lunches at school were out for summer vacation.

"Come September and going into the holidays we need to replenish the stock and fill the shelves again to get ready for the holidays," Bott said.

“Those are special times for families,” she said. “We want to try to have turkeys or hams for those holidays, so now it’s an all-out effort by all of us to be ready for what we call our holiday season, which is October to January.”

September is Hunger Action Month, which the food bank is using to make Utahns aware of the needs in the community.

"About 472,000 Utahns do not know where their next meal is coming from, and that is 17 percent of Utah," said David Johnson, spokesman for the Utah Food Bank.

From the City-County Building to the Capitol, the food bank used an estimated 27,000 cans of food to make the mile. People curious about the project pulled up to the lines and donated food and money for the cause.

The line of food caught Pam Jolley's eye as she drove on State Street Thursday.

“It’s a great way to make people remember it’s important to give to the food bank,” she said.

The Utah Food Bank uses 134 pantries and agencies across the state, which then distribute the food to those in need. Last year the Utah Food Bank provided 26 million pounds of food to Utah families. This year it hopes to provide 28 million pounds.

The food bank particularly needs items packed with protein, things like peanut butter, tuna, canned stew and canned beans.

"Just the basic things the families are interested in that you would buy for your family, that’s what we need for these families as well," Bott said.

The Utah Food Bank is asking the public to take a bag with food to any Walmart store. The stores will have trucks ready to pick up the donations. For those areas that don't have a Walmart, the food bank has asked residents to take donations to a local food bank or soup kitchen.

All the food collected during the Beat Hunger by a Mile event will go to the Utah Food Bank and will be distributed statewide.

Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell added the last cans of food up the stairs of the Capitol Thursday afternoon.

"When you realize that you want to eat everyday — at least three times — this food, although it looks like a lot, it is not much," he said. "You tend to respond to fits of charity, but people want to eat 365 days a year."

E-mail: jreyes@desnews.com Twitter: @_JulianReyes_

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