NORTH OGDEN — It opened last April when the COVID-19 pandemic thinned supplies at grocery stores and people were struggling to find and afford the products they needed.
A little over one year later, the Tri-City exchange has become a permanent nonprofit with sights on expanding its model to other cities and states across the country.
Co-founder Mike Larson said Friday that additional exchanges under the Tri-City name had opened or were opening in Price, as well as in California, Colorado, Hawaii and New York.
"It's been one year and we've done over 8 million pounds of food given out to the public," Larson said Tuesday. "It is fantastic."
Larson opened the exchange months before heavy losses struck his business, Advanced Armor Technology, in July.
"We got hit by COVID real hard," Larson said. "We lost a lot of money — millions of dollars with our body armor company this past year."
Larson grew more determined to stay entrenched in his efforts to help the community through hard economic times.
"I found it would be easier to help the masses than to help myself," Larson said. "My wife and I are here from 7 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. every night."
With the assistance of numerous distributors like Associated Foods and Nicholas, as well as local businesses like Bella's Fresh Mexican Grill, Larson said the exchange has been able to maintain supply to meet the demand from the masses, all while helping those companies to reduce their food waste.
Larson said the exchange was here to stay with plans to seek grant funding in 2022.
On Tuesday afternoon, the exchange gave away food at the curb to thousands of people who lined up in their cars. Larson said it was the seventh such event in recent weeks and was open to everyone — not just the poor, but anyone struggling to pay their bills and get by.
"Come get what you need," Larson said. "Get back on your feet, pay it forward."