SALT LAKE CITY — Farmers Feeding Utah provided direct food donations to more than 800 Utah families Monday, and directed donations to local food pantries in western Salt Lake City.
The campaign held the donation event at the Utah State Fairpark and passed out a variety of vegetables, dairy products, meat and other pantry staples through its Miracle Project West Salt Lake.
This is the third event held by Farmers Feeding Utah, which has provided more than $550,000 worth of food so far through monetary and food donations. This event is aimed at using local farms to reach families facing food insecurity on the west side of Salt Lake City who have been hit hard by COVID-19.
Nancy Ocampo, who lives on the west side of Salt Lake City, said her visit to the food drive is the first time in her life that she’s had to use services like a food bank. She was recently laid off from her restaurant job in North Salt Lake because it is closed down for maintenance.
“I’ve been laid off for about three weeks now, so this is a good help. I don’t usually go but my mom said I should stop by and see if there’s anything to use, and I like what I got from them,” Ocampo said. “They had lots of good items and the people were really friendly. It’s a big help for the community as well because there are lots of people in a similar situation.”
Ocampo said this year has been hard with three kids and being a single mom, but that she’s staying positive and is hopeful everything will work out.
“COVID-19 has really heightened the issue of food insecurity in communities across Utah. The work that is being done by Farmers Feeding Utah is critical in making sure that families and individuals have the food they need,” said Gina Cornia, executive director of Utahns Against Hunger, in a statement. “It is especially important that when you look at the data, the need has always been there for neighborhoods on the west side of Salt Lake, and that need is only growing as this crisis continues.”
“We’ve done a few of these and every one has been amazing, so amazing that we call them ‘miracle projects,’” Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said. “Somebody told me that it’s a little audacious to refer to them as miracle projects, but I think that’s exactly what they are when you look at the amount of money that’s been raised (and) the amount of food that has been given, it is nothing short of a miracle.”
Farmers Feeding Utah is a charitable campaign by the Miracle of Agriculture Foundation, a nonprofit branch of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. The group receives funding through donations and partnerships with Utah State University, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, among others.
Cox said the first two miracle projects were a huge success and he is particularly proud of the efforts between the governor’s office and the Navajo Nation to feed people across the nation’s communities.
He said Sanpete and San Juan counties donated enough goods to help feed 4,000 families in the area, which included donations of over 30,000 pounds of food and 605 live sheep. Similarly, Cox said a campaign in northern Utah helped nearly 500 families through food donations to pantries in Logan, Brigham City, Tremonton and Rich County.
“The donations today are going to help more than 800 families along the west side communities in the Salt Lake Valley,” Cox said. “Farmers Feeding Utah is working with additional food pantries with the VA hospital ... and Crossroads Urban Center. They are also delivering food directly to more than 500 families today, and that’s the very definition of a miracle.”
Ken White, dean of Utah State University’s College of Agriculture, said the farming industry in general had fallen on hard times before the pandemic because of tariffs and other trade issues. He sees this project as a way to help two struggling communities.
“The idea that donors will come and donate money, and that money can go to our farmers to help compensate them for these fine products that they produce, and we can get those products to people that really need it, makes this a really exciting project and very, very unique in my opinion,” White said.
He said he thinks the Miracle Project “has done more than any other program we can envision” to educate people on the importance of farming and how critical it is to the economy and to individual lives.