Utah Food Bank behind goal as Thanksgiving approaches

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SALT LAKE CITY — Eleven-year-old Tia Smart is a dynamo when it comes to the Kid Power Turkey Drive.

She and 20 other friends around her age have raised more than $6,000 in the past two weeks. They've gone door to door, made phone calls, and talked to friends and family at church and social gatherings.

The Kid's Power effort is enough to buy more than 500 turkeys for the Utah Food Bank this year. Smart personally made a killing at a fundraiser at her dad's office, too.

"Thank you all. We got $536 just today, and that's like way awesome!" Tia announced on the office public address system.

Yet, in spite of groups like Kid's Power, and Riverton Motors, which dropped off 420 pounds of food Monday morning, and Wadsworth Construction's donation of 4,000 turkeys, the Utah food Bank is running short of food.

"Demand is up 40 percent over last year," said Jim Pugh of the Utah Food Bank. "Last year's demand was up 35 percent from the year before that. So we're dealing with nearly double the clients. That's 140,000 people statewide."

The Food Bank's goal is to get 28,000 turkeys; so far 20,000 have come in. They were hoping to receive 1.5 million pounds of food, and they're 10 percent behind on that goal.

Pugh blames the economy.

"We're seeing more and more people that are just living in really difficult situations," Pugh said. Families that, while they may have a working family member in their household, they're still living paycheck to paycheck. They're having to decide between paying rent and putting food on the table."

The top "most needed" foods are always in demand — things like canned vegetables, tuna fish and peanut butter.

In spite of the need, Pugh acknowledges the generosity of the community.

"We're very fortunate to have really good people who really care in this state," Pugh said. "Things could be so much worse."

Pugh plans to be one of the hundreds of people taking part in a fundraising Thanksgiving Day 5K and 10K race on Thanksgiving Day. One hundred percent of all proceeds benefit the Utah Food Bank. It will be at Draper's Incredible Pizza, 12101 Factory Outlet Drive.

People seeking information on assistance can call the general assistance hotline: #211. The Utah Food Bank's website is utahfoodbank.org.

The Food Bank also accepts cash donations.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com


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