Fewer food drives, donations given to local food banks

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SALT LAKE CITY — Food banks and pantries in Utah are having a harder time securing the drive donations they need, and they're resorting to more drives to compensate.

"We have seen the food drive decline," said Utah Food Bank chief development officer Ginette Bott Wednesday.

However, it wasn't entirely evident at an annual turkey giveaway Wednesday afternoon at 120 West and 1300 South. 3,700 turkeys and other goods were distributed to needy families, thanks to a partnership between Crossroads Urban Center, the Utah Food Bank, Harmon's grocery stores and other groups.

The event was bolstered by a significant increase in fundraising in a Harmon's drive. The grocer raised $194,000 this year after a $121,000 total last year, Bob Harmon said.

However, the picture isn't so rosy for some local pantries. In November, Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo announced it had seen a 381,000 pound decrease in drive donations in five years' time.

Meanwhile, the group said it had served 5,000 families in the past 6 months. Normally, the group serves 7,000 families in a year.

"It's not a huge portion of what we depend on, but if you look at a smaller pantry in a smaller town, it's probably the majority of theirs," Bott said.

The pattern had touched the Utah Food Bank in recent years, Bott acknowledged. It used to be that drive donations accounted for 9 percent of the Utah Food Bank's total food stores. Now, it's more like 7 percent, she said.

The charities have responded to the problem by adding additional food drives during the year. In 2012, the Utah Food Bank added a September drive in conjunction with Hunger Action Month, according to Bott.

Bott attributed the weaker overall drive giving to the lingering effects of the recession and changes in donation patterns.

Bott said more people are opting to give cash and donate online — which suits a larger organization like the Utah Food Bank, but less so with community pantries.

Regardless of the macro money issues at hand the day before Thanksgiving, the needy were pleased that they were able to receive a boost for the holiday.

"It saves me about $20, $30," Carl Spitzmacher said.

Spitzmacher said he intended to share his haul with some friends at his apartment complex. Another man took time on his crutches to publicly offer his thanks.

"It is a big help," Eduardo Hernandez said. "And it's been appreciated — a lot."


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