It was a cold morning, but Michael Evans felt warm as he and other youths from his Latter-day Saint congregation spent just under an hour driving from home to home in his Garland, Utah, neighborhood, collecting food for the local pantry.
“It felt very good,” the 17-year-old said. “The best part was seeing how much food people were willing to give. Many homes used large boxes rather than grocery bags.”
What happened in Garland was a small part of the state’s first “Feed Utah” food drive, a massive collaboration supported by thousands of volunteers and a multitude of organizations and faith-based groups to help feed thousands of families and individuals in need.
The food drive brought in hundreds of thousands of pounds of food at 160 locations across the state.
Among those involved were The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Associated Food Stores, the National Guard, Catholic Community Services, Holy Trinity Church, Prophet Elias Church, the Fish-n-Loaves Food Pantry, Salt Lake City’s Calvary Baptist Church, Centro Cristiano Monte de Sion Church (The Mount Zion Christian Church), Ogden Rescue Mission, KSL, the Boys and Girls Club of multiple state counties and many other local and interfaith entities, according to a news release.
Utah Food Bank CEO Ginette Bott said the demand for food has increased dramatically due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Utah typically has more than 510,000 people who struggle with food insecurity, but that number has expanded by over 150,000 this year, she said.
Last year, the Utah Food Bank distributed 52.9 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 44.1 million meals, according to UtahFoodBank.org.
Last week Bott and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox joined Latter-day Saint leaders President Bonnie H. Cordon of the Young Women general presidency and Elder Evan A. Schmutz of the Utah Area Presidency to invite people to get involved.
“Now more than ever, this is an opportunity for Utahns to step up and just show once again, that we really do care about each other, that we care about our neighbors,” Gov. Cox said, according to the news release. “You can help Utah Food Bank’s goal of eliminating hunger statewide by participating.”
Sister Cordon said communities are strengthened through service.
“We are so grateful to serve alongside many of our friends from other faiths,” she said in the release. “We are grateful for the opportunity to have the support of all the community leaders and the support of so many organizations.”
The Rev. Oscar T. Moses, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, applauded the community effort to feed the hungry.
“The community embraces the law of reciprocity, you know, you give, and you receive,” he said in the release. “We live in, in some very unprecedented times, and it calls for us as brothers and sisters in the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity to come together and compile our efforts, whatever they may be. If we can have a holistic approach towards helping the least, the left out, the marginalized people, I think God will be glorified.”
With the encouragement of church leaders, many Latter-day Saints, including children and youth, participated in the project. Thousands of Primary-age children, parents and leaders placed Feed Utah food drive flyers at homes prior to the pickup day.
On Saturday morning, an army of volunteers collected bags of food donations and delivered them to locations where more people loaded them into Utah Food Bank trucks.
Chad Bloomfield, a Latter-day Saint volunteer, filled his vehicle’s trailer and dropped off bags of food donations at the West Jordan Macey’s food store parking lot, according to the release.
“There’s times when you think, ‘Are there enough good people in the world?’ and I think it’s more important now that we come together as people, and just support each other and help each other in any way that we possibly can,” he said.
To help the Utah Food Bank, visit UtahFoodBank.org.