BICKNELL/HANKSVILLE – Winter months can bring challenges. For some, it’s seasonal layoffs due to the end of the tourism season, or much higher utility bills in the colder months. Then there are the holidays—wishes for a nice family Thanksgiving and Christmas that can stretch the pocketbook. Or medical bills that are straining the bank account.
Whatever the reason or size of the need, local food banks can fill a void to ensure that no one goes hungry. And the Wayne County Food Bank is ready. Mike Riddle, coordinator of food bank locations in both Bicknell and Hanksville, has been busy over the past eight months or so, building out facilities and supplies to make sure the local food pantry is prepared for anyone who needs it.
“I thought I could apply my business management skills to expand it, and given the economy, be prepared to handle more people. And that is the case,” said Riddle, noting that the number of regular families served by the Wayne County Food Bank has grown from fifteen to twenty-five over the past six months. “We have more senior citizens coming than ever before,” he added.
Riddle serves on the board of directors of Central Utah Food Sharing, a centralized facility in Richfield serving the Five County area that is licensed by the Utah Food Bank. His close engagement with the umbrella organization has been an asset to building local food resources.
“Right now we’re in really good shape,” said Riddle. “We have it set up so we can serve 200 families. Our food pantry is larger than Richfield’s, and they handle 1,300 a month.”
Riddle is more concerned about people not reaching out for help when they need it than not having enough resources in the food bank to provide services. “We fight something that we call ‘cowboy pride,’” he said. “We hope that cowboy pride doesn’t extend especially to children that are going hungry. There’s no need for it, because we can take care of their food needs.”
He says the process is simple, and many who don’t think they qualify, actually do. “In Utah, you can have 180% of the national poverty level and still qualify. It’s all self-declared anyway, we don’t check anybody.”
“It’s a friendly environment,” he added. Volunteers Jolyne and Ross Nickle “warmly welcome our guests every month and keep everything in the food pantry running smoothly,” said Riddle. The pantry has a group of steadfast volunteers. “They show up like clockwork,” he said.
Food donations from WalMart and Lin’s Market are among those that help fill the pantry at Central Utah Food Sharing with goods that make their way to Wayne County. “Maverik, they have a corporate policy now, when things are a day or two old and they are required to rotate them out, so they freeze them, and we pick up close to 300-500 pounds per month of frozen burritos and sandwiches and stuff.”
Staples are in abundance, too: soups, juices, frozen chicken, frozen beef, sausage, cereal, pastas, macaroni, ramen noodles, dried and canned beans, cans of pork. Seniors can sign up for senior boxes. “The food is all fresh, and rotated on a regular basis,” said Riddle. The pantry is currently working with Utah State Extension services to bring in recipes that work with pantry ingredients to put together meals.
Bicknell Pantry Services are located at the Wayne Senior Center and are open two days per month: the first Wednesday from 4-7pm, and the third Wednesday from 12:30 to 3pm. Hanksville Pantry Services are at the Hanksville Town Hall. They are open one day per month, the first Sunday at 1pm.
“Anyone in need of services can just come by. They can walk out with food,” said Riddle.
For questions or to make donations to the Wayne County Food Bank, inquiries can be made at 435-896-5225.