SALT LAKE CITY — Recent economic hardships have brought a young mother with several young children to a local food pantry. A sense of relief comes over her as she is sent home with a grocery cart full of food and diapers for her baby.
Stories like this are common at Tabitha’s Way, a local food pantry in north and south Utah counties. According to pantry manager, Becky Robinson, due to the recent pandemic putting many families out of work, the need for food and other items has increased significantly.
"Since all this started around March 12, we have doubled the amount of families who have not been our previous clients," Robinson said. "We have been serving individuals and families from Salt Lake City all the way to Toole. Our south pantry that serves south of Springville has had families come from as far as Nephi in search of things to get them by. It’s been a little overwhelming, but we are here to help all who are in need. We won’t turn anyone away."
Tabitha’s Way is a free-to-the-public service that receives many of its food donations from the Utah Food Bank and grocery stores, but also relies heavily on public donations. Robinson said that with the increased need for items, current social distancing restrictions, keeping in line with new health codes, and fewer donations coming in, has made it difficult to keep up.
"With the increased need for our services, and current regulations keeping our volunteer sizes down to 10 or fewer people, it has been hard to keep up," Robinson said. "When we receive food, it goes through a 3-5 day quarantine to make sure that if any of it was contaminated, that the virus has time to die before passing the item on to a family. There are also many items that we have a hard time getting from stores or even donated to us. Staples like rice, flour and toilet paper are things that we haven’t had much of on our shelves."
Tabitha’s Way has also had to change the way it handles many of its services to reduce the chance of disease spreading.
"Right now, we aren’t holding any large food drives to bring in donations because so many people touch the food," Robinson said.
Even with so many people in need of the services Tabitha’s Way offers, Robinson said that they aren’t turning anyone away.
"People are people, and the grocery lists that you or I would have are very similar to those of the people who come in here," Robinson said. "Sometimes a child wants candy, and that’s OK. It’s fun to be able to give a family some treats along with staples like canned meat, pasta and rice. If you are able to donate it, we will find a family who can use it."
Tabitha’s Way has a location in American Fork and Spanish Fork with donation and pick-up sites at both. For more information, go to https://tabithasway.org/