Box Elder food pantry rebounding after COVID-19 scare

Elder Aaron Cheney and Sister Alyssa Merritt missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bring groceries down the ramp of The Box Elder Community Food Pantry while the pantry's Executive Director Joleen Groberg holds the door.

BRIGHAM CITY – The Box Elder Community Food Pantry, located at 272 N. 200 W. in Brigham City, used to serve 10 to 18 families a day, but after the COVID-19 scare that changed. For about two weeks at the beginning, they only had four or five families a day come in to get commodities.

Joleen Groberg has been the executive director for the Box Elder Community Food Pantry for three years.

The pantry’s Executive Director Joleen Groberg said things are beginning to normalize. The numbers are getting back to about 10 to 13 families a day.

“We just got a boost of 14,000 pounds of canned goods from food drives sponsored by two stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” she said.

She said that food drive was one of the bigger drives they’ve had recently.

“The Perry Stake donated 10,000 pounds of food and the Box Elder Stake donated 4,000 pounds of food,” said Groberg. “We serve plus or minus 200 families a month, except October through December, they serve about 500 people for the holidays.”

Groberg has been the executive director for three years but worked there five years before taking her current position.

The pantry has part-time employees, full-time employees and community volunteers, including two Latter-day Saint service missionaries, Elder Aaron Cheney, from Tremonton, and Sister Alyssa Merritt, from Brigham City.

Sister Alyssa Merritt a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints loads a shopping cart full of produce at the Box Elder Community Food Pantry.

“We serve all of Box Elder County west to Nevada and north to Idaho,” she said. “We do have a food pantry in Tremonton, but we still cover all of the count. We serve 185% above the poverty level.”

Box Elder County has 56,000 plus residents in an area of over 6,700 square miles.

”I’ve hung flyers and visited the senior center and tried to get the word out that we can help,” Groberg said. “I still don’t think very many people know we are here.”

The pantry is open every Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. People need to call to make an appointment.

Unfortunately, in response to the pandemic, no one can come into the facility.

Joleen Groberg, checks her files at the Box Elder Community Food Pantry.

“We have to load everything into shopping carts,” she said. “They tell us how many are in their family, and we load the carts to match the size of the family.”

Everyone working in the pantry wears a protective mask and the donated food from food drives is quarantined for five days before it is distributed to families. Food donated from stores does not have to be quarantined.

“Because of our limited space, sometimes it is easier to take monetary donations,” Groberg said. “They can bring a check to the pantry or mail it to us.”

Instead of storing the food they can go out and buy what is needed.

“The Box Elder Community Pantry started with a box of donated food in a storeroom under the courthouse steps,” she said. “It has been in other places, but 50 years later we have a 6,700 square foot facility with six paid employees and 10 volunteers.”

Dennis Memmott goes through a box of snacks donated to the food pantry in Brigham City.

The budget went from an annual budget of a few hundred dollars to $200,000. The money comes from United Way, Bear River Association of Governments, large foundations and local, state and federal governments.

“We have also received a lot of private monetary donations from the public recently,” Groberg said. “People in Brigham City and Perry have been very generous to us. It is amazing what they have given us.”

“We are blessed and thankful for the support of our community,” she added.

For more information, call the pantry at (435) 723-1449.

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