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SALT LAKE CITY — An intrigued Fatima Ravat trekked uphill to the state Capitol Thursday, following a mile-long trail of mixed vegetables, tomato soup, peanut butter and other packaged foods.
She thought the food path was part of a marketing campaign, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was part the Utah Food Bank's Beating Hunger by a Mile event. Hundreds of donors gave, and over 80 volunteers lined food donations from Washington Square to the state Capitol.
The 6,556 pounds of food donated will provide 5,463 meals to the 444,000 Utahns who are food insecure. Monetary donations were also accepted. The event was born four years ago when 94.1 KODJ radio staff proposed the idea to the Utah Food Bank. Announcer Scott Fisher said the visual line of food on the street reminds Utahns of those struggling around them.
"Hunger really is an issue. When you see the food out there, you see that this really is a concern," said volunteer Derrick Davey. "It hits you a little deeper inside, because it is there and open and visible to you."
A little goes a long way. Because the food bank turns every $1 donation into $7.61 worth of goods and services and Cyprus Credit Union matched all monetary donations, Brett Wetz's $25 donation provided over 200 meals for those in need.
"Look, I've had a few good months," Wetz said. "I haven't had a lot of money in the past, but now that I have more, I'm glad to give more."
Radio technician Shane Murphy said generous donations were given by beneficiaries of the Utah Food Bank in earlier years.
Volunteer Hailey Emerson smiled as she helped drivers unload their food donations as they pulled to the side of the road. She said she couldn't help but give away a couple of cans to the homeless as they walked by. Volunteer Josh Atwater, 12, practiced his air guitar skills as he danced around with a "Honk for Hunger" sign.
The families we see are very challenged and struggling, so when we as a group, whether it is volunteers or staff, recognize that we can have fun with what we do, it is really important to all of us.
–Ginette Bott, Utah Food Bank spokeswoman
"It's nice to have an atmosphere of fun," said Utah Food Bank spokeswoman Ginette Bott. "Usually what we do is very serious and somber. The families we see are very challenged and struggling, so when we as a group, whether it is volunteers or staff, recognize that we can have fun with what we do, it is really important to all of us."
The food line reached the Capitol by 11:45 a.m., the fastest Beating Hunger by a Mile collection to date. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker concluded the event by reading Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's official declaration naming September as Utah's Hunger Action Month.
Becker called the event a great kickoff to the rest of the month and encouraged generous donations. Bott said she hopes people heed that counsel.
"What this does today is remind those of us who are very fortunate that there are many of those who are not," she said.
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