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We all know what happened when Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her poor doggy a bone.

What they don't tell you is that she went down to the nearest emergency food pantry for a three-day packet of supplies. That saw Bowser and Mother Hubbard through the immediate shortage.Life would have been even more troublesome if the food pantry shelves had been bare.

Just how troublesome is something hungry Utahns caught in a crisis may find out unless food is donated to stock the Utah Food Bank, which provides most of the food that is distributed at locations throughout the state.

According to Brenda Thompson, who runs the food bank for the Community Services Council, it has a good source - and thus supply - of canned vegetables. It has some rice. And that's about it.

Each year the Utah Food Bank receives about 1 million pounds of food. It could easily use 3 million pounds, according to Thompson.

The food that is donated is targeted for the people with most serious need. Through a computer system, the food bank tracks consumers so nobody abuses the system because they'd rather not buy groceries.

Ideally, the packets are sufficient to feed a family for three days. They're adequate but not luxurious.

Utah has some excellent food drives every year, including the major effort put forth by Boy Scouts, a new drive by area postal workers and a corporate drive that got its kickoff last week.

Unfortunately, the number of hungry people in the state is so high that the food bank could probably use a monthly food drive to keep the shelves full.

Between drives, when supplies are depleted, it's famine.

People always think about providing food for those who are poor and hungry during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It's wonderful, but it doesn't feed people in September or October. By then, most of the food that was collected by the Scouts in March is gone.

Utahns have proven to be very generous people. They donate to a huge variety of causes, giving talents, time and resources. One theme runs through the giving: How can I know that my donation is being used wisely? How much goes to administrative costs and how can I get the most bang for my buck?

A food donation answers the question before it is asked. It can't be used inappropriately. It serves only one purpose - combating hunger.

It's an easy donation to make.

An estimated one in nine Utah children goes to bed hungry at night. Nationally, that number translates into millions.

Senior citizens who are on a fixed income, and particularly those who are homebound, face hunger in significant numbers as well.

Parents who are classified as the working poor - people who put in their 40 hours a week at low-paying jobs and constantly fight to meet the costs of raising a family - have to make tough decisions about where to spend limited resources. A hunger survey conducted locally found that it is not uncommon for these people to skip meals themselves to make sure that their children have a little bit more.

The effects of hunger are serious and include poor attention in school, illness, dental problems and more.

Hunger's hard on the human spirit. How can the world be right and full of promise when your stomach is empty?

In kicking off the corporate drive, which he chairs, Karl "The Mailman" Malone pointed out that efforts to help people in other countries who face starvation and upheaval is a worthwhile cause. But he suggested that you don't have to go that far from home to find serious needs that must be met.

The local solution begins at the Utah Food Bank, 212 W. 1300 South.

Certain items are particularly valuable to the food bank because they contain a lot of protein. Thompson said that donations of tuna are desperately needed. Also extremely welcome are dried beans, dried milk, soups, canned fruit, peanut butter and baby food.

The baby food particularly is a commodity that the food bank hasn't seen much recently. And it's essential for low-income families with small children.