Emergency food supplies to feed the poor often run low during the spring and summer, and this year will be no exception, officials of county, state and private agencies said Tuesday.
To replenish dwindling supplies, Utahns are urged to donate commercially canned and packaged food during Hunger Sabbath, April 29 through May 1, and to participate April 30 in a Crop Walk in Salt Lake City, Brigham City and in the Provo-Orem area."The Crop Walk and Hunger Sabbath are opportunities for all of us to reflect upon and to act upon the hunger we find in our own communities and throughout the world," Steve Johnson, director of Utahns Against Hunger, told a press conference in St. John's Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City.
Other participants were the Rev. Robert Shrank, pastor of the church; Salt Lake County Commissioner Mike Stewart; Patty Groves, Utah regional representative of Church World Service/Crop; and Thayre Dennis of Gov. Norm Bangerter's office.
Stewart and Dennis, a secretary in the governor's office, both read proclamations designating Hunger Sabbath and Hunger Awareness Week, May 1-7.
Stewart said hunger is still a major problem, with emergency food networks being severely affected during the spring and summer.
"The effect of hunger upon our citizens, especially children and the homeless, can be devastating mentally and physically and have negative long-term implications," Stewart said.
He invited Salt Lake County residents to leave donated food at Salt Lake County libraries, at the Northwest, Central City and Copper View multipurpose centers, the Magna Recreation Center and the Salt Lake County Government Center.
The Rev. Shrank, a Community Services Council board member, which operates the Salt Lake Food Bank, referred to a statement made by Jesus Christ that the poor, the hungry and the needy will always be with us.
He said Hunger Sabbath provides an opportunity for people of all churches and synagogues to give. But he urged giving on a regular basis "so we don't always have to have special (food gathering) efforts before Thanksgiving and other holidays."
The Rev. Shrank said members of his own congregation have made that commitment.
Dr. Lowell L. Bennion, council director, told the Deseret News Tuesday that supplies are running low at the food bank.
"We have pretty well given out all that we received (before) and at Christmastime," Bennion said.
At the press conference Groves said Church World Service/Crop, an educational fund-raising arm of the National Council of Churches, asked Utahns to bring a can or package of food to the Saturday walk-a-thons and to secure sponsors willing to pay them for each mile walked.
Each walk begins at 9 a.m., with Salt Lakers scheduled to trek from the north end of Liberty Park to Utahns Against Hunger, 21 G St.
Seventy-five percent of the funds collected will go to combat national and global hunger, with 25 percent being divided among food gathering and anti-hunger organizations in the three areas, Groves said.
"The problems of poverty and hunger in Utah are significant," Johnson said, noting that more than 200,000 Utahns live below the federal poverty level, listed at $11,500 for a family of four.
Nearly 50 percent of the 200,000 people, Johnson said, are children. "These people are at nutritional risk because they cannot afford the food they need for themselves and their families."