UTAH (ABC4) – Multiple groups focused on fighting hunger in Utah say they’re seeing more people in need of food assistance since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the Food Research & Action Center, food insecurity doubled in Utah during parts of the pandemic. Alex Cragun with Utahns Against Hunger says COVID-19 relief resources helped people put food on the table.
“Into 2021, we saw sort of food insecurity rates decrease as a result of things opening, but also, child tax credit, stimulus checks, access to SNAP and WIC benefits, had some additional flexibilities as a part of that,” Cragun said.
With some pandemic benefits ending, food banks are seeing an increase in families still needing assistance. Utah Food Bank’s Ginette Bott says many of the people needing help at the beginning of the pandemic were those struggling with unemployment, but now, the reasons look a little different.
“Higher gas prices, or higher daycare, or higher cost of housing, all the things that seem to first be addressed in a budget pushing food down that list,” Bott said.
Other local groups say they are also seeing inflation play a role in people needing more food assistance.
“People are having to work two jobs and do this and that, you know, just to try and make it all work,” said Clayton Beckstead, director of the Miracle of Agriculture Foundation.
Heidi LeBlanc, the director of Hunger Solutions Institute & Create Better Health program at Utah State University said, “From the demographics, it’s typically a single mother with children and she’s working three jobs, how do you do three jobs and try to raise a family and still can’t make your ends meet, how discouraging is that,”
According to Utahns Against Hunger, some groups are affected more than others.
“In December of that year  it was about one in five households experiencing food insecurity and for BIPOC households that was one in three to one in four,” said Cragun.
According to Beckstead, 160,000 military members are experiencing food insecurity across the United States, which is part of the reason they started the Military Miracle Project to focus on getting food to this group. He said Congressman Stewart attended their recent event, where they discussed the root of the issue to look for solutions.
“There are eleven pantries just for our military throughout the state of Utah. That’s pretty significant,” LeBlanc said. “These are the people that protect us, give us our rights, help us to keep our rights to freedom, to work, and to earn for our families and they’re struggling.”
If you’re facing food insecurity, you can reach out to the Utah Food Bank, the Utah Farm Bureau, and Utahns Against Hunger.