Last year Tabitha’s Way Local Food Pantry in Spanish Fork provided temporary food assistance to approximately 30,000 individuals and redistributed 960,000 pounds of food equaling nearly 2,000,000 meals.
In early 2017, they began construction on a new facility in Spanish Fork that will accommodate the growing needs of the South Utah County area. The new building will have ADA access, include electrical improvements, commercial refrigeration and a loading dock.
“These upgrades are needed so we can safely provide services and to give us the ability to provide fresh produce and dairy items such as eggs, milk and cheese to families with children, seniors and individuals with disabilities, who do not have the means to buy enough healthy and nutritious foods,” said Wendy Osborne, Tabitha’s Way founder.
Those interested can follow the building’s progress on the organization Facebook page, Tabitha’s Way Local Food Pantry South County.
Tabitha’s Way serves the working-class poor; families and individuals who are going through a tough time. On average, more than half of the people served each month are children.
Osborne said, “Most of the families we see are facing a temporary crisis. These tough times include things like a transmission going out, cancer or other serious illness, abandonment or sudden loss of employment.”
How does Food Insecurity affect the community? Osborne explains it using the Snickers candy tagline that “you are not yourself when you are hungry”.
“Well, it’s true. Hunger can affect an adult’s ability to think clearly and interact socially impeding their capacity to work well. Food insecurity (the anxiety of not having enough food) affects a person emotionally and physically by elevating stress levels. Stress is linked to most major illnesses including depression, obesity, heart disease and diabetes,” she said.
Child hunger has an even more devastating impact as it has long-term effects on a child’s mental and physical development. Studies show that children that are food insecure have trouble learning and retaining information making it more likely that a child will fall behind in school and increases the probability they may drop out of school, experience early teen pregnancy and/or become prone to drug addiction and criminal behavior.
In order to fulfill their mission, Tabitha’s Way needs regular volunteers, specific food donations at specific times and financial donations.
It takes 75 regular volunteers to help operate the food pantry. They are looking for individuals or groups who can commit to a 2-3 hour shift once every 1-2 weeks. Visit JustServe.org or email email@example.com to find out about volunteer opportunities.
Like any organization, they have expenses. These include salaries, insurance, rent, equipment, maintenance, trucks and so on. Volunteers and food donations have increased efficiency and the food assistance they provide ends up costing about $.09 per meal. You can donate at www.tabithasway.org.
As the holiday months approach, many groups and organizations plan food drives. Osborn said they can make their food drive more meaningful by scheduling it and accepting a food assignment to assure variety in incoming donations. “We have 3 pallets of green beans! A variety of foods are needed to provide a balanced nutritional diet,” Osborne said.
Virtual food drives are another great way to help provide what is needed most. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on making your food drive more effective.
Osborne said the Tabitha’s Way goal is to serve the local communities well. The larger vision includes creating a No Hunger Zone—an area where no one ever has to face hunger or food insecurity because neighbors (citizens, businesses, schools, and other organizations) have taken emotional and financial responsibility to assure that never happens.
“To achieve that vision, we need to continue to improve what we do, to find and serve specific areas, to engage many more individuals and organizations to volunteer and donate money,” she said. “We look forward to building an endowment that will allow support for individuals and families (especially children) suffering tough times for many decades.”
Because tough times and hunger and food insecurity don’t come and go and they don’t take vacations, Osborne emphasizes the solution needs to be equally persistent and resolved.
A thriving local food pantry is the first step to fighting food insecurity. Once completed, Tabitha’s Way will move from its existing location on Main Street and into its permanent home at 45 East 100 North, Spanish Fork.
Osborne said, “Every success we have achieved has been with the support of many. A heartfelt thank you to the many donors, partners, employees, volunteers, and neighbors for helping reduce hunger and food insecurity in our community. We invite you to come visit us. We invite you to help.”