SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Food Bank opened its newest site in the Southeastern Distribution Center in Blanding on Wednesday.
The new food bank will support San Juan County and Navajo Nation.
For the last three decades, one truck has been making the trip to and from the area.
While the area may be considered a desert, Utah Food Bank officials said the Navajo Nation community should not have to be a food desert.
"We need to be able to cut down a lot of those miles that geographically were causing problems," said Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank.
The amount of fresh food available to residents has increased thanks to the 18,000-square-foot distribution center plus a 1,800-square-foot pantry and refrigerator and freezer space.
Addressing the needs
This is positioned to address the needs of Utah's Indigenous population.
"We're trying to combine ease, effectiveness, efficiency, as well as dignity, to the families who are in need and make this the easiest process possible," Bott said.
Officials with the Utah Food Bank said San Juan County residents face significantly higher rates of hunger compared to the state average, with 17% reporting food insecurity, as opposed to 10% statewide.
Childhood hunger is even more common, with 20% of children uncertain about their next meal. That is double the statewide average.
"We're having hours on different days that are varied. If people are working and they get off at 5 (p.m.), there will be days where they can come to a pantry after hours. We'll still be open. There'll be a Saturday a month where they can travel," Bott said.
The Blanding distribution center will be a constant to ensure consistent access to food resources, providing jobs, as well as offering volunteer opportunities.
This facility will also support two new Utah Food Bank pantries opening in March in Monument Valley and Montezuma Creek.