GCFP In the News
Essay by Katie Dix
Executive Director of Gunnison Country Food Pantry
Friday, March 13, 2020, was the day the pandemic became real for me. This was going to be the emergency of my lifetime. Sure, there have been others through the decades but this one would affect me and my loved ones.
Working with many others, I help provide food assistance to those in need through Gunnison Country Food Pantry. Our doors opened as normal the following Monday. We heard through the grapevine that 13 of the 47 food pantries serving southern Colorado were closing. Those pantries could not figure out how to manage without the help of precious volunteers 60+ who would be isolating at home. I am in that category; shouldn’t I be isolating? Would the supply of food from Care and Share Food Bank be impeded? If grocery store shelves were emptying due to the pandemic, would the flow of surplus food from our local stores and distributors decrease? What to do? What to do?
People were being laid off their jobs. Food in kitchen cupboards was not going to last long. People were going to be frightened and then hungry. Fear and hunger breed despair, which leads to depression. This cycle can be as harmful as lack of nutrition.
Epiphany! The decision was obvious. Gunnison Country Food Pantry would not close. We would feed people. As opposed to offering food assistance once a month as normal, the Pantry would invite those in need to visit every week and receive a food bundle – as much balanced food as the members of their household would need for a week. We got to work implementing coronavirus safety precautions. The saddest thing was postponing being a Choice Pantry where our recipients can select items suited to their preferences and to socialize with our volunteers. Pantry volunteers had worked hard establishing that practice. Nevertheless, our doors have opened on schedule since March 13. We met the need!
Certainly, there have been challenges. How could the food that began rolling in be safely stored? Every one of our sources for food increased their donations. How could all the people willing to help be offered a satisfying volunteer experience? Usually in a year, about 150 people provide the manpower to operate the Pantry. In 2020, that number doubled. How could food reach people suffering with or isolating from COVID? Gunnison County Pandemic Response Team built a delivery system and invited the Pantry to participate. Today, food bundles are routinely delivered to 50 households in need.
And there have heart-warming successes! The number of households asking for food assistance increased by 80 percent and every single request was met with a bundle of food. Neighbors are generously helping neighbors so that no one has to go hungry.
Thankfully, my memories of the pandemic will not be of isolation, fear, sickness, and death. My memories will be of hard-working volunteers, grateful recipients, and food – glorious food!