OGDEN -- Families that have been relying on Fishes and Loaves, an outside food drop, once a month for three years at Elim Lutheran Church received their last help Thursday.
Officials at the Utah Food Bank have decided not to supply donations to the site unless the church comes up with a facility to house such an effort.
The church will have to meet requirements of square footage and number of volunteers to receive food for distribution in the future.
"We have explained that once they have a facility, we are willing to talk to them," said Ginette Bott, chief marketing officer with the Utah Food Bank.
She said members of the church, at 575 23rd St., have been raising funds for a facility for five years.
But Bott said even if Elim is able to raise the needed funds, the church might not get the support to distribute food on a regular basis.
"Does it make sense to have two great food pantries two blocks apart?" Bott said. "I don't know. The community will have to decide that."
Bott was referring to a distribution point of Catholic Community Services Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in the Marion Hotel building at 2477 Lincoln Ave., which is five blocks from the church.
For 15 years, the facility has handed out food boxes every other Wednesday to families registered with the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank.
"For some reason, we forget to talk about it," Northern Utah Catholic Community Services Director Marcie Valdez said of the downtown food distribution. "This might be a better option for people who have difficulty with transportation."
She said those who switch from the Elim drop to service from the food bank at the Marion Hotel location likely will have a better experience.
"Through the food pantry, we are able to give a more well-balanced supply of food," Valdez said. "They will get more food and a better variety than what they could get from a drop program."
She said food drops are collections of donations that come into the Utah Food Bank and don't always contain items from the different food groups.
And Valdez said Fishes and Loaves also represents duplication of efforts.
"A lot of the people that are being served at Elim are currently being served at CCS," she said.
Organizers of Fishes and Loaves have explained that the food drop is necessary because their clients have difficulty traveling to the food bank across the Ogden viaduct at 2504 F. Ave.
Valdez and other staff members of the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank were on hand Thursday at Elim's last food distribution to give families the information they need to apply for a food card with the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank.
"We want to make sure people are connected to resources," Valdez said.
One woman who was there Thursday for food, Donnica Arnold, said she just found out about Fishes and Loaves last month, and said the food she got went a long way to feed her family of eight.
"It got us by for five days," she said, noting that she still has sausages and salsa she made out of a box of jalapenos she got.
Arnold said she will have to walk the extra five blocks to get to the Lincoln pantry from her house on 24th Street and Madison Avenue, but she said she'll make the trip even if it's more difficult.
"I have anxiety," she said. "Leaving my house is really hard for me."
Valdez pointed to tough economic times as the reason the Utah Food Bank will stop delivering to the monthly drop program at Elim.
"We have to meet the needs and collaborate," she said.
Bott said it didn't make sense for the Utah Food Bank to continue the drops in Ogden, where there are other services nearby, when there are communities in the state without any programs at all. She said the Elim drop will be redistributed to an area in need.
Elim Pastor DanaLee Simon said losing the food drop has been a challenge, but she expects the church to grow from the difficulty.
"Our main goal is to make sure people of this neighborhood are getting what they need," Simon said. "If food isn't what they need, what is a need we can tap into with the energy we have?"
Simon said Valdez gave her a lot of ideas while they were together Thursday.
One idea may be to adopt an apartment complex, she said.
Meanwhile, the church remains committed to raising money for its future food pantry plans.
A church official handed out fliers Wednesday at a meeting of Ogden's Interfaith Works, asking if members of the various congregations throughout the area wish to support a building or if someone has warehouse space they would like to write off that could house the effort.
"Fishes and Loaves is now moving in the direction of funding a building," the flier states. "Now we see the opportunity to grow and become a full-service food pantry."
Those interested in joining a food pantry partnership are asked to call Elim Lutheran Church at 801-394-5543.
Those wanting to apply for assistance from the Lincoln Avenue pantry may visit there between 10 a.m. and noon June 3, with identification, birth certificates for their children, proof of income and proof of residency.