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Utah Food Bank receives $100k for culturally responsive foods

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Alex Gonzalez

(Utah News Connection) Utah Food Bank has received funding for distributing what it calls more "culturally responsive" foods.

The $100,000 dollar grant from KeyBank will allow Utah Food Bank to create the infrastructure needed to identify, track and distribute a wider range of food items, starting in Salt Lake County, and eventually statewide.

Ginette Bott, CEO and president of the Utah Food Bank, said people from many different cultures and countries have relocated to the Beehive State. She emphasized if the food bank is able to provide more of the foods families are accustomed to preparing, including more fresh produce and fewer processed foods, it will help take one worry off their plate.

"If you flip that -- you know, the Utah Food Bank being responsible for the entire state of Utah -- we need to find a way to be sure that we're helping folks who are put in that situation," Bott stressed. "And not just providing food, but trying to provide the correct types of food."

Bott noted the organization will need about a 12-month window to allow it to conduct some internal upgrades, to implement the new tracking and distribution infrastructure. The hope is for the program to be up and running by the end of this year, and ready for a statewide rollout in 2024.

Bott believes the impact of the grant will help other states as well. She explained as an emergency food assistance program, the products donated to Utah Food Bank are the same products going out to the pantries serving those in need. Bott added they always try to have the staples available, like rice and beans, but they will soon have the ability to look more broadly.

"Can we look at those eight kinds of white rice, for example, and determine instead of just one, should we have three? If we look at the beans, OK, and in addition to black beans, do we need to have other types as well?" Bott outlined.

Bott stated the grant money will also allow them to ensure their network of food pantries has room for a variety of products and can match families to the foods as best they can. She reminded people anyone in Utah who is food insecure can call 211 for assistance.