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'This is much needed': Salt Lake City VA gets new and improved food pantry

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Office reopened its food pantry Wednesday after being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food pantry program manager Steve Prater said the new, larger food pantry opened to veterans during a time of year when many of them need it most.

"This is much needed," Prater expressed. "We've had a couple veterans who have been tearful because they didn't know where they were going to get food, and with the current economic situation, people are unsure."

He said the old food pantry was a quarter the size of the new space and was damaged in a flood in 2021. The new location had a soft opening to clients in November.

"Prior to Covid, we were serving about 25 veterans a month, and so far, we've surpassed that," Prater said. "Since Nov. 16, we're nearly 80 veterans at this point that we've served."

Prater's right-hand man is pantry employee and veteran Rex Randall, who served in two wars. He helped organize the space.

"The people come in. I have them fill out paperwork. If you look at them, and you ask a little information about them, then you pretty well can go over what the allowed limit is," Randall explained.

Having the food pantry reopen on Dec. 7, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, was important to him and Prater.

"I'm a veteran, as well, and I served in the army for over 20 years," Prater said. "For me, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked is a pretty momentous day, sad day for sure, but I felt like it was an important beginning. So, what better day to kind of start on a good path, start with this great resource that we can provide to our veterans?"

The food pantry is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's located in building 5, Room 1A31, on the campus of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 500 Foothill Drive in Salt Lake City.


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