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Taylorsville Journal

Uncle Sam’s red tape removed at Taylorsville Food Pantry, site can now serve more people, more quickly

Feb 06, 2023 02:10PM ● By Carl Fauver

Taylorsville Community Outreach Coordinator Jay Ziolkowski (L) recently toured volunteers Jordan Knight and her father Phil through the city’s food pantry. The Knights are two of several members of the Intermountain Baptist Church who are donating their time to reopen the site. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

The venerable Taylorsville Food Pantry (4775 S. 1600 West) may look the same as it always has from the outside. But inside, a change in volunteer management – and more importantly, a change to how the facility is funded – will now allow the site to serve more people in need, much more quickly.

“We expect to provide two to three times as many people with the food they need as the previous pantry volunteers could,” said new Taylorsville Food Pantry Manager Phil Knight. “That’s not because we can hand food to people faster. It’s all because we will not be reliant upon CDBG funding. That means we won’t have to do nearly as much paperwork with each client, allowing them to move through the line much more quickly.”

Ah yes – whenever you see a string of letters like CDBG, it’s normally a sign there’s bureaucracy and plenty of paperwork somewhere in the mix. This time, the letters stand for Community Development Block Grant. And CDBG falls under another string of letters: HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).

For nearly 20 years, since the Taylorsville Food Pantry was established by former city councilman Morris Pratt – through a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity – the facility has been funded through CDBG grants. 

“I have been involved with the food pantry for close to 18 years; but I am tired and ready to step back,” said Pratt. “I have always written up our CDBG grant requests. Through the years, we have always received about $15,000 to $19,000, annually. The city has also been very gracious over the years, allowing us to use their building – and to pay for electricity, water, internet and other utilities.”

Mayor Kristie Overson is grateful for all the work Pratt did over the years, along with the efforts of his many volunteers.

“We were so lucky to have Morris over the food pantry for so many years,” Overson said. “He did so much accounting and completed so many reports (to maintain the CDBG funding eligibility). But now that he wants to step away, the city is going to take more of this on. We will no longer be eligible for CDBG funds. But we will also have a lot fewer constraints. Grant money has lots of layers and red tape.”

Leaving along with Morris Pratt are his Warehouse Manager Sue Lane and her daughter, Front Counter Supervisor Tiffany Diaz. Their last day spent handing out food was New Year’s Eve.

“It has been so rewarding serving Taylorsville residents at the pantry,” Lane said. “There was lots of sobbing that last day. Clients said they would miss us. I know I will miss them. I’d been there since 2013 and Tiffany since 2015. We had about 15 volunteers at the end – and many of them had been around for 10 years or more too. It’s tough – but you move on.”

The Taylorsville Food Pantry officially closed for two weeks, allowing the 501(c)(3) that had operated it since day one to dissolve. Then on Jan. 14, the site reopened under volunteers coordinated through Intermountain Baptist Church (4770 S. 1950 West). Leading the way is church member Phil Knight, who promises many of their congregants are ready to step in to take over the job of handing out food to those in need.

“Without the constraints of federal CDBG funding, we will be able to move people through the pantry much more quickly,” Knight explained. “We won’t be required to do nearly as much paperwork on each client as the previous volunteers did.”

Besides allowing food pantry patrons to move through much more quickly, this will also allow the new operators to provide food to people who do not actually reside within Taylorsville city limits.

“There again, that restraint was a CDBG funding requirement,” Knight added. “I can pledge here and now, we will provide food to anyone in need, regardless of where they live.”

Utah Food Bank officials say there are about 45 food banks across the Salt Lake Valley. They report it has never been much of an issue that people from outside a given area come in to get supplies. Taylorsville City, Utah Food Bank and Intermountain Baptist Church officials all agree, they are not concerned about the policy change – and are pleased they will be able to serve more people in need. 

Intermountain Baptist Church is not new to food distribution. But Knight admits, operating the food pantry will be a much bigger operation than what they have been doing less than a mile away from the pantry at their church.

“We began handing out boxes of food to our church members in need shortly after the pandemic hit, in about April 2020,” Knight added. “At our height, we were handing out 600 boxes of food per day. That went on for about 18 months. It’s slowed down a lot since then. But we still provide food regularly to about 50 families.”

The final question left for Taylorsville City to resolve is: how will the $15,000 to $19,000 per year that had been coming to the food pantry through CDBG federal grants be replaced? For starters, the city’s Community Outreach Coordinator Jay Ziolkowski says they will not have to replace that full amount.

“The previous food pantry operators had a couple of people receiving financial stipends, while our new operators are promising to do all of the work voluntarily,” Ziolkowski said. “That will save a good portion of the previous funding. We will spend the next couple of months evaluating costs for things like freezer or refrigerator repairs or replacement. Then we’ll address the needs more completely in our next city budget.

At this point, Intermountain Baptist Church volunteers are analyzing how many volunteers they will need to line up – and how many hours per week the Taylorsville Food Pantry will need to be open to adequately serve community needs.

Watch for any changes in food pantry hours of operation to be announced on the city’s website
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