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What a difference 20 pounds can make

By Jennifer Danielson, President, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah | November 21, 2016

With a title like this, you’re probably thinking this is yet another post on the benefits of diet and exercise or avoiding overeating during the holidays. Well rest easy—it’s not. While healthy eating for many of us is all about portion control and swapping less healthy food for more healthful options, for too many, the choices are more basic and wrenching. Do I put food on the table this week or do I pay the rent? The jarring reality is that more than 400,000 Utahns don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Presented another way, that means one in every seven people in Utah is food insecure; with the figure rising to one in every five for Utah children. These statistics are alarming at any time of the year, but they are all the more so during the Thanksgiving holiday season.

Fortunately, there’s a highly effective organization that is meaningfully addressing this problem with a variety of programs—including a mobile food pantry. That organization is the Utah Food Bank. In 2015 alone, the group distributed more than 37.5 million pounds of food, which equates to 31 million meals.

The Utah Food Bank’s mobile pantry program provides a direct way for concerned companies to step up and make a difference in hundreds of Utah families’ lives. Regence is honored to be a participant and to make feeding hungry kids our passion. We are sponsoring a mobile food pantry for a local elementary school, and we assemble teams of company volunteers to distribute more than a ton of kid-friendly, yet highly nutritious food. We fund the food and the cost of getting the truck to the playground. We arrive right before school lets out, wearing our Regence shirts and putting about 20 pounds of food in a bag for each child. The kids look so proud to be taking home food to their families. A pound of food equals a little less than a meal—so each child is taking home nearly 20 meals. We only need eight volunteers to staff the food distribution line, but as volunteers talk to their coworkers about what it means to them to help a hungry child, we are getting more and more interest and support. 

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Since we began our mobile food pantry sponsorship in September, we’ve seen a steady growth in the numbers of children and their families seeking nutrition support. We started by serving fewer than 100 children; the number has grown to nearly 150. In just the first three months of this school year, we’ve been able to donate and distribute more than four tons of food, which equates to roughly 7,000 meals.

As our Utah Food Bank Mobile Pantry experience shows, opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors abound. Imagine what we could accomplish—at this holiday season and throughout the year—if we all redoubled our commitment to reach out and offer a hand up to those in need.

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