Utah’s economic recovery could hurt those helping the hungry

Photo courtesy of the Utah Food Bank.

SALT LAKE CITY – The economy appears to be getting better in Utah, which actually could hurt efforts to help those living at the bottom of the economic ladder. 

Ginette Bott, chief development officer with the Utah Food Bank, says people may donate less money to organizations such as hers because they may now believe that the need to help is less. 

She stresses just the opposite is true, given the billions of dollars that Congress may cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP and food stamps.

“I think people are either going to stop donating and perhaps start using that discretionary funds for something for their family,” she says, “or they’re going to go back to other areas of donations that they have had relationships with that perhaps they want to rekindle. 

“I think that people are going to lose sight of the fact that hunger is still a huge issue.”

Signs of Utah’s economic recovery include an unemployment rate below 5 percent and a budget surplus measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Bott says many of the customers at the Utah Food Bank are working multiple jobs and still don’t earn enough money to cover all of their needs. 

“Some of these families who are finding themselves back in the job market perhaps don’t have the good fortune to have one full-time job,” she explains. “I think they’re working two and three part-time jobs. 

“Most of the families who come to pantries, one if not both adults in the family, are working.”

Bott adds the need to help the hungry likely will grow as Congress considers big cuts to the nutrition program. 

The Senate approved trimming $4 billion from SNAP over a decade, while the House approved a $39 billion cut. 

There are reports that Congress may be headed toward a compromise of around $8 billion in cuts to the program.

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