This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
"Thank you Food Pantry people and donors. My family and I have been trying to keep food on our table. Thank you for not letting our tummies go hungry. God bless you."
They are the words of a letter received in the mail by Cache Community Food Pantry Director Matthew Whitaker. Reading it ranks among his most memorable life experiences.
"It was from a little kid that was just learning to write, and was written in crayon," Whitaker said. "She drew a picture of her family; it was a stick figure family."
When Matthew successfully applied to a vacancy at the Food Pantry in 2003, he was fresh out of college, and his plan was to work there for three to five years, gain some experience and then move on, but almost 12 years later he's still there and it's because of letters like the one shared above, the donors and volunteers who make the Pantry's mission possible and the countless success stories of the individuals and families who receive help there.
"I get to see that here on a regular basis," Matthew said. "Because the whole purpose of the Food Pantry, is to help people get through a rough spot, back to where they are able to provide for themselves again."
In fact, what Matthew likes most about his job is when he's helped someone for a while, and after disappearing for two or three months, they return, not seeking help, but to offer it, with their own food donations or a check. It's not a requirement of the Pantry, but many who have been helped there, simply want to give back.
The Logan based organization differs from most food pantries in that they run a "choice program" whereby people can choose what they need, instead of receiving boxes that all contain the same items.
An average of 165 families benefit from their donations each Tuesday, as well as non-profit organizations that in turn prepare meals with the food items to feed those in need.
"We take whatever the Food Pantry may have in abundance to prepare our meals," Loaves and Fishes Board of Directors volunteer Amy Anderson said.
They prepare and serve over 180 meals twice a month. Some 130 of them are served on location to people also seeking social interaction, while another 50-60 meals are taken home."
"We are completely volunteer driven, so without the support of the Food Pantry, we would not be able to feed these families, plain and simple," Anderson said. "Without them, we don't function."
As the old adage goes, "a little child shall lead them"; and it was a group of third-graders that proved this saying to be true.
"School groups often come here on tours, where we explain what we do here," Whitaker said. "And at the end of a tour I asked if they had questions, and a little boy raised his hand and said can I give you my granola bar? I said sure, and he opened up his backpack and handed it to me. That started a chain reaction."
Next was a little girl who offered her cup of Pringles, then a boy who handed over his peach. Soon an entire line of eight and nine year olds were opening their backpacks and lunch boxes to donate their lunches to people who needed them more than they did.
"And then a little boy who had been silent the whole time, came over to me on their way out, grabbed my hand, opened it and gave me 75 cents," Whitaker said. "So this group of little kids really grasped the importance of what we are doing here."
Matthew is calling on all Utahns to follow the example set by these children, and others who do their part to pay it forward. Food donations are needed first and foremost, but donations of hygiene items are also welcomed, including toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and diapers.
"The problem I face is that there are several other non-profits here in Logan, and people are more likely to give them money, and give us food," Whitaker said. "While we are extremely grateful for the food, we also need financial help to cover our overhead costs; so monetary donations are also a great way the public can help."
And why should you help?
"If they could see all of the expressions of gratitude I get from families that come in here, and the tears that are shed…they would understand," Whitaker said.
But you need only go back to the beginning of this story, and re-read Isabell's Crayola letter for your answer. The Cache Community Food Pantry is making a significant difference in the lives of others, and through your donation, or by volunteering your time, you'll be doing your part to ensure another person's tummy does not go hungry.
The Cache Community Food Pantry will be holding a Christmas food drive on Saturday, December 6th and they hope to receive 80,000 lbs. of donated food items. Big Buddah will be there to help them do it, and you can be also. To find how, and to learn more about the work they do, please visit: http://www.cachefoodpantry.com or call: (435) 753-7140. Also be sure to "like" their FaceBook page at: http://www.facebook.com/cachefoodpantry .