We're there to help when there's a life-changing event or some major crisis, because food is often the last thing that families will purchase for themselves. —Ginnette Bott
SANDY — Vishal Kaul has never had to go hungry and because his life has been so blessed, he believes in giving back to the community so that others, too, can be blessed.
"It is part of living in a society," he said "It is our responsibility to make sure that everyone is blessed."
In the two years Kaul, 30, has been a resident of Utah, he has tried to find time to volunteer at least twice a month. The computer engineer said it also helps him to do things for others.
Most recently, Kaul has been serving the Utah Food Bank, which held a statewide food drive on Saturday to collect food items that benefit the 17 percent of Utahns who struggle to find three meals a day.
"Hunger is still a huge problem in Utah," said Ginnette Bott, chief development officer for the Utah Food Bank. "Especially in this economy, people are just now going back to jobs where they might not be making as much as they were in careers before the recession and they're having trouble making ends meet."
Bott said food is often not a priority for struggling families.
One in five kids in Utah goes hungry every day, according to research by Feeding America, an organization that partners with food banks across the country to make sure that everyone has access to food.
"We're there to help when there's a life-changing event or some major crisis, because food is often the last thing that families will purchase for themselves," Bott said.
The Utah Food Bank, which partners with 130 food pantry locations across the state, is constantly in need of food, personal and hygiene items. The goods are made available to needy individuals and families in emergency situations.
"It is a noble cause," Kaul said.
The nonprofit agency collected and distributed more than 36 million pounds of food — approximately 28.4 million meals — last year. During the September 2012 food drive, it collected 500,000 pounds of food statewide. Bott said donations increase nearly every year, but so does the need.
Macaroni and cheese pasta products are still the No. 1 requested item by kids, but Bott said the organization would like to help the many senior citizens they serve, some of whom have dietary restrictions, by providing low-sugar and low-sodium foods.
Laundry detergent, diapers and baby formula, pet food and personal hygiene items are also welcome and often requested at the food bank.
Because of a charitable culture in Utah, Bott said the state is better off than most others. The agency teams up with services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to reach people in need, and hundreds of thousands of hours put in by volunteers and businesses from around the state make it all possible.
"We couldn't do it without them," Bott said. "It comes back to food, time and money. We can use whatever people are willing to give."
While the month of September is officially Hunger Action Month, the local food bank accepts donations year-round. Anyone interested in making a contribution can do so online, at www.utahfoodbank.org or bring items to the warehouse, located at 3150 S. 900 West, in Salt Lake City.