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Utahns Against Hunger Strives for a More Sustainable Food System

Welcome to SLCgreen Connections, an occasional series highlighting SLCgreen’s fantastic local partners—the people and organizations with whom we work closely to make Salt Lake City a greener, more vibrant, and sustainable city!

By Ardyn Ford, SLCgreen intern

Hunger. It is desperate and overpowering. Everyone has experienced it, but for some, it is extreme and long-term. Weeks go by with a deep, gnawing sensation inside, a pain so fierce that it almost feels alive.

This is a reality for more than 1 in 9 Utahns.

Food insecurity occurs when people cannot afford to buy enough food. It has significant impacts on productivity, happiness, and health, and because it impacts low-income families and individuals, it is often accompanied by threats to other basic needs such as shelter and clothing.

UAH screenshot

Utahns Against Hunger (UAH) is an organization dedicated to increasing food access to Utahns who experience lasting hunger through advocacy, outreach, and education.  They were founded in 1979 originally as a project of the Crossroads Urban Center with the goal of improving Utahns’ access to federal nutrition programs. While UAH no longer directly distributes food in low-income neighborhoods, they continue to work to increase and secure funding for those agencies on the state level.

Supporting a healthy, local food system is linked systemically to working to end hunger. Utahns Against Hunger strives to bridge the gap between those who are hungry and those who are working locally to produce delicious, local food, such as farmers.

That’s why they participate in Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Task Force, which they helped found in conjunction with SLCgreen Program Manager Bridget Stuchly nearly a decade ago. The Task Force is a group of 18 individuals who have worked together to develop programs and policies that support urban agriculture, food security, and sustainable farming.

“The Task Force connects partners to mobilize resources and develop innovative solutions to food access, resilience, and sustainability,” Brain Emerson, the Community Food Systems Manager for UAH, said. “This coalition allows [UAH] to be more aware of the needs of the community by connecting local government, growers, producers, distributors, and consumers.”

Brian and the rest of the UAH team are a busy bunch. Some days you will find them on the Hill, advocating for bills that support low-income residents. During the 2018 legislative session for instance, they lobbied to remove the sales tax on food. They did this because a sales tax on food is a regressive policy, which means that it has a larger impact on low-income residents because it takes a larger portion of their income, proportionally, compared to mid- and higher-income residents.

Community members gathering to hear and show support about the "Make Hunger Visible"campaign.

Utahns Against Hunger advocating for H.B. 148: Tax Revisions. Photo courtesy of Utahns Against Hunger.

Other days, the UAH team is working to develop food assessment reports which are used in meetings with elected officials and community partners to develop future programs designed to fight hunger.

One of their most significant achievement has been the statewide implementation of the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. Launched in 2015, DUFB is an initiative born from cooperative work between a number of statewide partners, including SLCgreen, farmers’ markets throughout the state, and UAH.

This program matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) dollar-for-dollar, up to $10 per day, at local farmers’ markets. So when participants spend $10 of their SNAP benefits at the farmers’ market, they leave with $20 worth of fresh produce.

DUFB was founded on the win-win-win principles in which low-income residents take home more healthy food; local farmers increase sales; and the local economy is strengthened.

Double Up Food Bucks is also accepted at Salt Lake City’s Urban Greens Mobile Market.

The program enabled over 6,000 low-income Utahns to access more fresh produce in 2017. Management of Double Up will shift to Urban Food Connections of Utah and the Utah Department of Health in 2018, but UAH remains a core program partner.

 

Two vegetable vendors at a market selling green beans, sweet carrots, beans and other vegetables.

Vendors at a local farmers’ market. Photo courtesy of Utahns Against Hunger.

 

DUFB is just one program of many that exemplifies the dedication and broad community influence that defines Utahns Against Hunger.

They are also heavily involved in federal nutrition program advocacy; for example, defending SNAP from potential cuts, and promoting school meal programs that serve low-income children. They also offer trainings for organizations interested in learning more about food programs.

We’re grateful for the important work UAH does to support food access and a sustainable food system for our city!

To learn more, visit www.uah.org/

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