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Food pantries across the state are seeing an increased demand, and they're getting some big help from local supermarkets.
Inside most supermarkets, like Smith's, for example, they put their freshest and best looking stuff out in front for customers to see, but in the back are some things that just won't sell. Smith's Food and Drug spokeswoman Marsha Gilford, "It has to be still fresh quality product that is just ‘unsaleable,' being damaged in some small way or near expiration date."
The food would otherwise go in the trash bin, even though it's perfectly safe to eat. So, they give it to the Utah Food Bank. Gilford says, "It's a ‘green' effort, if you will, to keep things out of the landfill and reduce costs of garbage pickup."
Every day, four drivers go to different stores as part of the Food Bank's grocery rescue program. "The Utah Food Bank is very, very helpful and the fact [is] that they will make the trips to the stores on a regular basis to help pick up the food," Gilford said.
The food then is given to pantries and distributed to clients in less than 24 hours.
Utah Food Bank Executive Director Jim Pugh said, "We're picking up from close to 30 different grocery stores in the Salt Lake Valley, and that number has grown dramatically in the last year. We can typically take about between eight to 10 stores we can pick up with one of our vehicles."
Pugh says last year they collected 1.1 million pounds of food that was going to be thrown away in just a few days. Compare that to 240,000 pounds of food two years ago.
"In the past, often times, all we were getting out of those stores were day old bread type items, and now we're able to get deli items, or we're able to get dairy items, or produce, or some of the items that weren't available to us before," Pugh said.
He says recently signed nationwide contracts have been a big reason for the increase in food. He says it wasn't always worth the trip to the stores if they didn't have a large supply of food to donate.
"We've started up a partnership with Sam's Club, where we're going to be picking up from all the Sam's Clubs in the state. We're working on a partnership with Kroger's or [more] local Smith's stores to get on board with that. Albertsons has come on board with those programs," Pugh said.
Pugh says each pantry can feed between 50 and 200 families a day with the food prepared from these programs.