Food bank is more like a Durango grocery store experience – the Durango Herald
As demand remains high, those in need can choose their own items
La Plata County organizations are thinking about new ways to tackle food insecurity for residents.
Local food banks have seen an increase in the number of people in need of food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in some cases the high need has not gone away. In response, local groups such as Fort Lewis College and the Durango Food Bank are finding new ways to connect residents to services.
“So many working families are struggling to make ends meet. There is never enough money left after covering basic necessities, ”said Sarah Smith, executive director of the Durango Food Bank. “These food insecure residents are truly our neighbors. They work and do their best to cover their bills, but just have a shortfall at different times of the year.
The Durango Food Bank now operates a self-selected pantry, which allows customers to choose food for themselves rather than receiving pre-prepared boxes of food.
One client, a 26-year-old resident near Ignacio who declined to be named, said she was using the food bank for infant formula. Her 4-month-old son, who is allergic to milk, needs a special formula that can cost over $ 700 a month, she said.
Some members of her family are also seeking food aid. A person is on oxygen full time due to COVID-19 and cannot work, she said.
She declined to be named because “it’s embarrassing to be made public for needing help,” she said.
The food bank’s self-selected pantry helps people choose foods that meet dietary restrictions and avoid food waste. It’s also a way to empower people while receiving food assistance, especially for families who had not yet relied on food services, Smith said.
“We want our neighbors to feel like human beings who are treated with kindness and dignity during their tough times,” Smith said. “We believe that food is not a privilege, it is a basic human right and we are so happy to have such incredible resources and support in this community.”
“Unprecedented” customer demand in 2020 has leveled off at the Durango Food Bank, although it continues to serve record numbers, Smith said.
But the skyrocketing numbers are still happening at Pine River Shares, which offers food bank services to residents of eastern La Plata County.
In June, the association served 2,400 people; in July, 2,600.
“It’s very high. We expected the numbers to go down after people get back to work, but we don’t see it, ”said Pam Wilhoite, executive director of Pine River Shares.
La Plata County Commissioners have helped create more than 100 boxes of food for members of the Pine River Valley community while volunteering with Pine River Shares in Bayfield, Commissioner Matt Salka said.
“In a matter of hours, they served 100 families with the necessary food. (The) food insecurity that people experience in our riding is quite shocking actually, ”said Commissioner Marsha Porter-Norton. “Those of us who have food and know where our food will come from each week or month is something that cannot be taken for granted, especially many families and the elderly.”
FLC recently submitted a request for $ 945,000 in federal funding to renovate its on-campus pantry, said Rebecca Clausen, president and associate professor of sociology and social services.
In a survey of nearly 1,000 FLC students, 44% said they had experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days. The investigation was completed in January 2020 and did not include the impacts of COVID-19, she said.
The pantry, called the Grub Hub, was housed in a small office in Jones Hall. Now it is geographically centered at the Student Union Building. But the space, once used for IT services, is not designed for food processing.
Federal funding, if approved, would be used to renovate the pantry with kitchen appliances, such as stainless steel sinks and counters, and to provide a more welcoming environment for students.
“It’s geographically centering it, but it’s also centering it to destigmatize it,” Clausen said. “Our company built it in the sense that it’s a personal failure. You don’t work hard enough, you can’t find a job. It’s sort of your fault.
But Clausen looks at it from another angle: What, in our social structures, like stagnant wages or the commodification of food, contributes to food insecurity?
The new Grub Hub space will celebrate the pantry and the students helping other students, she said.
Senator John Hickenlooper pushed the request forward at the federal level. Although still under consideration, the credits could be finalized as early as October.