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Despite the distribution of about 200,000 pounds of food by the Utah Food Bank each month to the state's poor and homeless, the needs continue to increase as resources dwindle.

Brenda K. Thompson, executive director of the Utah Food Bank, said that the distribution amounts to more than $4 million annually.The Salt Lake Urban Social Ministries met Tuesday night to discuss new ways of providing food for the hungry. The group was created about three years ago in hopes of unifying the ecclesiastical community and helping those in need.

A 45 percent increase in the number of people served by the Utah Food Bank in September (compared to September of last year) has caused administrators to be more creative in acquiring additional resources, Thompson said.

Public perceptions of the hungry and the stereotypes that surround them are one of the obstacles the clergy must battle in soliciting support, she said.

"The public is tired of the homeless, hungry issue," she said.

While the public's attention may have shifted from the poverty-stricken to other causes, the need for help and public support remains.

"We're seeing a real need out there both among the working poor and the homeless," said Jeff Fox, executive director of the Crossroads Urban Center.

"We're seeing a tremendous amount of working people who just can't make it to the end of the month," Thompson added.

The group's efforts are directed at organizing volunteers through the churches and developing new resources.

Thompson is asking churches to hold regular food drives.

"Food drives are very important because that's where we get our variety," she said. "We've got to get some major food drives going."

The group is counting on volunteers to make the collections possible. They look to local churches to help train and give direction to those volunteers so that they won't lose interest in the cause.

"We've got to find some way for them to do something meaningful," said Richard K. Winters, executive director of the Community Services Council.

Making participation and donations easier for potential sources is another way the group hopes to increase their food supply.

"We find some of the people who have it (resources) feel it's kind of a hassle," Winters said. "It's much easier to just throw it in the Dumpster."

Fox told clergy that along with educating the public there's a need for government support.

"Private charity trying to cure these massive social issues is like spitting on the ground to solve a drought," he said.

The food bank distributes food to 17 emergency food pantries, as well as other agencies and churches.