LOGAN – On Saturday, hundreds of Cache Valley vehicles kept pulling in to drop off food and monetary donations at the Cache Community Food Pantry. According to pantry director Matt Whitaker, an estimated 40,000 pounds of food were collected between 8 a.m. and 12 noon. and nearly $80,000 in financial contributions were donated.
“It exceeded my expectations by quite a bit,” Whitaker exclaimed. “We set up 20 bins because I thought we’d fill up 20 bins. Those filled up in the first hour and a half. We (were) scrambling to get more bins set up as the cars and trucks kept coming in.
“It’s been phenomenal… I think we made up for what was lost from the Boy Scout food drive.”
The Drive In and Drop Off food drive was sponsored by the Cache Valley Media Group to help the pantry, which had seen a dramatic increase in requests for food and services, but also a dramatic decrease in donations after two annual food drives got cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were getting phone calls,” Whitaker added, “from people saying, ‘we heard this on the radio. Is that going to happen? If it is, I’m going to bring some things down. Can I bring it earlier? Can I mail a check instead?’
“The radio has had an amazing impact on the effectiveness of this food drive.”
Promotional announcements were made throughout the week on nine local radio stations, including a live broadcast Saturday morning at the pantry. And the community responded. There was a steady stream of vehicles and never a lull for more than a minute during the four hour span.
Over 33 large bins were filled with food and nearly $80,000 was collected via Venmo, online donations through the food pantry’s website, and from people dropping off cash and checks on Saturday.
“Financial donations have been very humbling, to be quite honest, very humbling to see everything that has come in,” said Whitaker. “The generosity of the community that we live in, I don’t have the words to express the gratitude I have to the community for what they’ve sent us.”
Whitaker explained that those financial donations go a long way. Since the pantry is a non-profit organization, they don’t pay the sales tax on food. Additionally, Whitaker said the local grocery stores sell food to him at cost, allowing the pantry to stretch those dollars even further to fill in any gaps with food staples or personal hygiene products that sometimes don’t get donated, but are often needed.
Due to concerns about how long the novel coronavirus may survive on different surfaces, all the food that was collected Saturday is being isolated before being generally available to patrons.
“We’re trying to be very cautious and aware of what’s going around,” Whitaker explained. “Any donation that we have right now is going to the back warehouse and will sit there for about a week, week-and-a-half. That should be enough time for anything sitting on any material – plastic, metal, or whatever – to die off. Then we can bring it in here and sort it, making it available for families.”
“This was amazing, this community is amazing,” exclaimed Q92.9 morning host Jeff Gomske. His co-host Loralee Choate was the initial driving force at the Cache Valley Media Group to get something organized to benefit the pantry.
“Thank you, that’s all I can say is thank you so much,” Whitaker said. “We’re getting a lot of families down here who want to work but they can’t because of this. They don’t want to be here. They’ve spent their money, they’ve used their food storage, and they’re now coming down and applying for help.
“One of the things they tell me is, ‘please tell everybody who has given you all this food, thanks. It means I can put food on the table for my family while we’re trying to sort this out.’ So, we’re so grateful for everything everybody has done.”