ST. GEORGE — Volunteers from multiple organizations gathered to distribute food to hundreds of families Thursday morning as part of a mobile Utah Food Bank food pantry set up at the Washington City Community Center.
Three Washington County Rotary Clubs – Red Rock Rotary Club, St. George Rotary Club and Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise – along with members of the SunRiver Hiking Club, Roots for Kids and other volunteers all showed up on the slightly overcast and cooler morning to be part the effort.
David Nelson, chairperson for service projects with the Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise, said they facilitates the mobile pantry once a month as a way to help people who might not be able to make it to the food bank’s Southern Distribution Center, which is located on River Road in an industrial area of St. George.
Though the mobile pantry is an established and ongoing thing, Nelson said that with so many people losing their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have seen an increase in need.
In order to keep people safe and healthy, Thursday’s mobile pantry was set up as a drive-thru where people could pull up and volunteers wearing masks and gloves could load the boxes and bags into their vehicles.
“We just come and put it out here and let people drive up and collect their food,” Nelson said.
In March, the mobile pantry provided food to nearly 400 families – over 1500 individuals – and volunteers expected that number to increase to around 500 on Thursday, Nelson said.
“We’re expecting a lot more people,” he said. “People just don’t have anything to do as far as jobs, so they’re out here trying to supplement their families.”
The effects of the pandemic have reached a wide array of people, many who are using food pantry services for the first time, said Linda Trujillo.
Trujillo is the director of the Utah Food Bank’s Southern Distribution Center.
“The people that we find that are using our services are people that are first using a pantry system. A lot of them have never had to use it before, so we are happy to be there to be able to help them through this,” Trujillo said.
Food has been distributed to many service industry workers, healthcare workers who don’t have time to shop and emergency responders, many of whom are volunteers themselves.
Trujillo said demand on the food pantry is quite high and she foresees it continuing to be so for the next year to year-and-a-half.
“People are going to have a hard time coming back from this,” she said. “There are a lot of people that are in need out here.”
The Utah Food Bank acts as a collection and distribution center for a number of partner agencies who are able to understand the needs of their clients and use the resources of the food bank to help with food needs.
Trujillo said she is grateful for the volunteer efforts of the rotary clubs to package and distribute food at the mobile pantry events.
“They are amazing,” Trujillo said. “These volunteers help us every month, they’re just a great group of people. We couldn’t do it without them.”
For Nelson, it’s all about giving back, he said, adding that he had a really good life and is so grateful to have time to be able to support the community.
“We all love this community, so anybody that’s in trouble here, we want to help them,” he said. “All of us would like to save the world, but we do our little part. We know we can’t save the whole world so this is our little piece of it that we are supporting.”
The Utah Food Bank Southern Distribution Center is in need of food and monetary donations. Food donations can be brought to their location at 4416 S. River Road during business hours. Monetary donations can be made online.
For every dollar that is donated, the food bank is able to stretch that to over $7, Trujillo said, so the money has a lot of buying power to help those in need.
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.