Arrival of holidays means increased need at Park City food pantries
Nonprofits seek donations to help families in need
Park Record intern
The holidays are defined by snow, glistening lights, being with family — and, for many, food.
But for some Parkites, a Christmas or New Year’s feast is not always guaranteed. Despite the Park City community’s affluence, food scarcity is a problem for many families, and one that can become more heightened this time of year. Thanks to the generosity of charitable organizations and community members, however, food is reaching many people who need it.
Food pantries have never been more necessary, said Pete Stoughton, director of programs at the Christian Center of Park City, which operates one of the area’s food pantries. December has always meant an increase in food pantry demand, but now the need is crucial.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put many community members out of work, especially those in the service and hospitality industry, Stoughton said. Others have had their wages cut or seen their hours reduced.
Food pantries provide extra assistance so people can make sure that they and their families are fed. They can also help families in need achieve better financial security.
“It alleviates some of that financial stress for those families and individuals who are doing their best often to make ends meet,” Stoughton said.
The Christian Center operates as a self-determination food pantry, meaning that anyone can use it if they live in the Wasatch Back. The food pantry itself mimics a grocery store model, Stoughton said, where families can go up to three times a month to fill up grocery carts with essentials for their households.
Jewish Family Service is another Park City nonprofit that seeks to feed people in need. Its food pantry is located in Salt Lake City and is currently operating as a curbside or delivery service pantry. Ellen Silver, executive director of the nonprofit, said that families can visit the pantry once a week.
But these organizations do not just stop at food. Silver said that Park City’s Temple Har Shalom recently held a winter clothing drive that has helped provide clothing, in addition to food, for families. Monetary donations are also beneficial. Jewish Family Service gives people gift cards to local grocery stores, so families have the opportunity to buy goods beyond the ones available at the pantry. Like the Christian Center, the nonprofit also helps with expenses like rent assistance, medical emergencies and other financial needs.
“They just don’t have enough for those things that happen. But they are working people, hard-working people,” said Silver. “Now you put the pandemic on top and … we are seeing many, many more people who need our help.”
According to Stoughton, children are often the ones suffering most during difficult times because their parents work extra jobs to try to make ends meet.
“So when we’re having dinner with our families, their mom or dad is out working,” he said. “If we can help decrease that need to go to a second or sometimes third or fourth job, then that increases their capacity both financially and time wise to spend time with their kids and their family.”
But these pantries rely on community support to stay afloat, Stoughton said. Park City High School’s National Honors Society is the Christian Center’s biggest donor each year. But there has been a community-wide push to support the nonprofit during the pandemic. Volunteers at the pantry have been working non-stop since March, so new volunteers are welcomed to help with the influx of donations.
While Jewish Family Service’s pantry is located in Salt Lake City, Parkites are encouraged to donate. Non-perishable goods are always needed at the pantry, Silver said, especially those with flip tops to help the homeless population also have access. Baby food and diapers are also welcomed, as are monetary donations that allow the nonprofit to continue providing financial assistance to people in need.
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