GCFP In the News
County antes up $30K toward Food Pantry’s new home
County antes up $30K toward Food Pantry’s new home
Plans call for early September opening
Gunnison Country Times
June 23, 2022
Paul Wayne Foreman, Times Staff Writer
The Gunnison County Commissioners gave a nod of approval for the Gunnison Country Food Pantry’s Food for Life expansion project, chipping in a grant of $30,000 to help finance the pantry’s purchase and renovation of its future facility at 405 W. Tomichi, site of the former Colorado Fitness gym.
“It’s important for the county to lead, and be an advocate for the importance of the pantry’s project and to encourage other governmental agencies to do likewise. It’s essential for us at this time to step right in,” said County Commissioner Jonathan Houck.
In its 15th year of operation, the Gunnison Country Food Pantry (GCFP), a non-profit organization, has been guided by its mission statement that “No one should go hungry in Gunnison County.” However, the Pantry’s success in feeding Gunnison County’s food insecure population resulted in its outgrowing its present 321C N. Main Street facility.
“We came into the project with $3,500, and since January we have raised $300,000,” said GCFP Vice President Katie Dix. “We are seeking $300,000 more to cover this year’s renovation. If all goes smoothly, we can open on Sept. 5, the day after Labor Day.”
The pantry’s new location, besides housing operations, will also generate income to help the GCFP quickly retire the building’s mortgage, meet operational expenses and enable GCFP to focus the donations it receives to better feed people in need.
“We’re buying a building that’s 7,000 square feet overall, with 4,000 square feet dedicated to the pantry,” Dix said. “The remaining 3,000 square feet will be designated as a non-profit service hub. We are looking for a non-profit partner who needs some space. Once we find a partner, the pantry will for the first time have a second revenue stream.”
Having the steady income from the leasable space will help the pantry to stabilize its finances, Dix said, easing the pressure and uncertainty inherent to running an organization dependent primarily upon donations for its operations.
“We have been so dependent on donations,” Dix said.
The quick weekend transfer of operations will hopefully eliminate interruption to the pantry’s role of feeding Gunnison County’s citizens for whom food insecurity is a daily fact of life.
“The amount of food insecurity in this community is significant,” Dix said. “We will keep the food pantry open until the last moment. Once we close, we’ll be having a food parade moving all the food from freezers to freezers. We plan to be open on Tuesday, September 6.”
After the doors open, plans call for the addition of solar panels in 2023, plus a bit of landscaping as finances permit. If all goes as hoped, the pantry by the third year will have paid off the mortgage on its new home.
“Your services are so essential right now,” said Commissioner Liz Smith. “I recently read an article about how Colorado ranks third in the nation in wage increases, and that the increases are only just keeping up with the cost of living given the rise in the cost of fuel and groceries. We know across the state food insecurity is on the rise. As for the reported wage increases, I can’t imagine that raises are occurring proportionally across all industries. The data actually suggests that some people are hurting even more than ever, if their wages are not increasing in pace with the rest of Colorado. I only see the Food Pantry becoming more and more important to our community down the road.”
Dix pointed out the pantry serves a broad range of citizens, and also serves “Alice.”
“We serve children at risk, home-bound seniors, the Cora and Hispanic communities that are struggling, people dealing with chronic poverty and ‘Alice’” Dix said. “Alice is half of the people we serve. Alice stands for asset limited income constrained employees. Alice is not the people stereotypically thought of needing the help of a food pantry. She’s the everyday person walking down the street.”
Commissioner Houck said the county also serves “Alice.”
“I think you make a very important point,” he said. “We see ‘Alice’ across many services that the county is connected to. The majority of people receiving county services are the working poor. These people are working in essential jobs, they are contributing, their work ethic is strong, but their income compared to the cost of living falls short.”
Dix noted that nearly one-third of Gunnison County’s population connects with the pantry in one way or another.
“If you count the 2,500 people who visit the pantry to get food for their families, and you count the people reached through our outreach efforts, the mobile pantry, the cupboards in every school, the volunteers, the people who donate, and look at the vendors we do business with, more than 6,000 people in this county engage with the pantry, about one-third of the population.”
Recent events such as COVID have shown just how quickly economic situations can change, Dix said.
“If you think food insecurity is not ever going to affect you or yours, a recession could be on the horizon,” she said. “Some of the people who organized a school food drive in 2019, which brought in 1,000 pounds of food, were some of the same people standing in line in May 2020.”
(Paul Wayne Foreman can be reached at paul@gunnisontimes. com.)