GCFP In the News
Food pantry set for springtime opening
Gunnison Country Times
February 15, 2023
The original article can be found here.
New space includes county services and water tap
Abby Harrison | Times Staff Writer
The highly-anticipated opening of the Gunnison County Food Pantry’s new space has been tentatively set for this coming spring after construction delays and electrical issues extended the original timeline. Soon, pantry patrons will collect their groceries in a space that’s nearly four times larger, with new services like direct access to clean water and mental and behavioral health resources.
The pantry board purchased the new building, located at 405 W. Tomichi Ave., in early 2022. The move was precipitated by a need for more space, food pantry Board President Steve Secofsky said. The current space, a 900-square-foot building on the southwest corner of Ohio Street and Main Street, could no longer serve the community’s needs after the pandemic created greater food insecurity in the valley.
In 2022, the pantry served just over 2,100 people — many of whom visited the space multiple times per week. The pantry gets tens of thousands of pounds of food from the Colorado State Food Bank’s “Care and Share” program. Through Feeding America, a national nonprofit network of food banks, the pantry receives goods from nearly all grocery stores in the valley, including City Market, Safeway, Clark’s and Wilders.
Doors were originally expected to open in September of 2022, but construction came to a “screeching halt,” when the project lost its electrician, Secofsky said. It took the board about four months to find another electrician with the time and capacity to wire the new space. The timeline was stretched even further, when the main electrical service that leads into the building failed, causing a significant power outage over New Year’s Day weekend. The repair is underway, but has meant replacing the entire electrical service line all the way from the transformer, under the alley and up to the building. In some ways, the electrician’s delay was a blessing, Secofsky said. If the power had failed when the pantry had already moved 15,000 pounds of the food to new space, every perishable item would have been lost in a matter of days.
The 4,000 square feet of new space — over four times bigger than their old location — will feature larger areas for food storage and office space. Larger refrigeration units will allow the pantry to consolidate space and store a wider variety of food, like perishables, for longer periods of time.
“We had to factor in that a lot of the recipients that come to us may not have a car, so they have to take the bus,” he said. “We wanted to be strategically located so that we could be available and accessible to the recipients we serve.”
That’s when the vision expanded, he said, and rather than looking for a place that would fit just the specific needs of the pantry, the board decided to develop a community food service, which involves other valley organizations that “complement and centralize” related services.
The new site will include a water station with refillable plastic jugs, part of an initiative promoted by the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District and Colorado River Water Conservation District to provide clean drinking water to all who come through the pantry.
The building is 7,000 square feet in total, and the pantry is in negotiations with a local nonprofit, Mountain Roots Food Project to lease a portion of the remaining area for their operations. The new space will also be a hub for Gunnison County mental and behavioral health services. Secofsky said there are individuals who come to the pantry that may benefit from a connection with county services that help with housing and mental health.
“We came to find that with all these resources, one of the challenges is finding the bridge that connects resources to the people who need it,” Secofsky said.
A grant from Gunnison County Juvenile Services allowed the pantry to partition off a room in the building for use by a navigation resource specialist, an individual who helps connect individuals with resources to meet various needs. Carbon Creek Physical Therapy, owned by Bob Baumgarten, will stay in the building, but move the office from the northeast end of the building to the southeast end.
“Fingers crossed, there will be no additional surprises or delays,” Secofsky said.
(Abby Harrison can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)