She’s leading the way at the Bountiful Food PantryDec 02, 2021 01:46PM ● By Tom Haraldsen
Rebekah Anderson oversees seven staff members and more than 200 volunteers at the Bountiful Food Pantry. Photo by Tom Haraldsen
BOUNTIFUL—Rebekah Anderson worked in the retail industry for nearly 20 years, including some of the 10 years she lived in Houston, Texas. However, after moving back to her native Utah and returning to the workforce, she was ready for something different.
“I didn’t want to return to retail, but I had a lot of experience running a warehouse,” she said. “So when the Director of Operations position came open last January at the Bountiful Food Pantry, I applied and got the job, and it was the absolute best decision I could have made.”
Now, she is tasked with something she’s even more thrilled about. Anderson was named the new Executive Director of the pantry in October. She feels she has a chance to make an “even larger impact on the community. I’m very excited about the opportunity to help make a difference in people’s lives.”
The Pantry’s success is well documented. Last year, it gave out over 2 million pounds of food, about 1.7 million meals, to more than 11,000 households. Its legendary “pantry packs” which are distributed to students in need are going out at a rate of 3,300 a week, up from 2,700 last year. Those packs help feed many children and teenagers in Davis County who don’t have food to eat on weekends. The work of the Pantry covers all of Davis County and parts of north Salt Lake County. Anderson oversees a small paid staff of seven and more than 200 volunteers, “all of whom are critically important to our mission,” she said.
There has been a lot of transition for the Pantry team, as Anderson is the fourth ED it has had in the past two years. Long-time director Lorna Kochi retired and two other directors left after short stints at the Pantry. Anderson praised her team members who’ve “kept things running and helped maintain a positive environment. Our volunteers have been spectacular. My plan is to be here a long time and give them some consistency.”
Besides overseeing the Pantry, she plans to do a lot of community outreach, working to determine the needs of the county.
“We’re working a lot with the north end of the county, where there are transportation issues,” she said. “We know there are homes with food insufficiencies. Our mobile pantries – which are our box trucks – are filled with between 5-8,000 pounds of food. We take them to Sunset Jr. High every other Friday and distribute it through a drive-up program. People come by and we literally put food in their vehicle – they don’t even have to get out of their cars.”
She wants to expand that service to other communities as she can, and she’s working with the City of North Salt Lake right now and with Spectrum Academy on its monthly pantry.
“So many families live paycheck to paycheck. What that means is that if their car breaks down, they don’t have a savings account to fix it. That’s where we come in, providing food so they can use that money for another expense and don’t risk losing their homes or their abilities to go to work.”
The pantry packs have to be a specific kind of food – something that even a first grader can make and eat. Boxes of Mac and Cheese, for example, involve boiling water to cook. The small mini-cups that are microwavable are the better option and the kind of donation the Pantry seeks.
“We put chocolate milk in there, but it has to be shelf stable,” Anderson said. “We get lots and lots of peanut butter donations, but seldom any jelly. We appreciate all donations we get, and sometimes we do have to purchase items to supplement for meals. I’m so grateful and impressed by the generosity of the people and businesses here in Davis County. They help us out so much in so many ways.” Right now, the Pantry team is working on coordinating its Christmas food drive (see sidebar for needed items).
“I am so happy to be a part of this,” she said, “literally helping to feed hungry families. Not only that, but we affect communities in a very positive way because we help people find ways to serve. Any avenue we can find where we can feed hungry people – we’re going to jump on it and we’re going to use it. And we can always use more volunteers – it’s easy to apply online. There’s something so satisfying about helping others. I feel very blessed.”