More turning to charity to fill pantry

From left, 25 Chevron employees spent the morning volunteering at Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies in Palisade Friday. The company also donated $10,000 to the food bank for the forth year in a row.

Pallets of bananas, cornflakes, macaroni and cheese and even dog food share space in a refrigerated Palisade warehouse for the Western Slope’s Food Bank of the Rockies.

On Friday, about 25 employees of Chevron’s Piceance Basin area organized food boxes, their fourth year of volunteering with the group ­— the company again donating $10,000 to ensure hungry folks have some food this winter.

It may take community efforts like these to overcome the potentially growing issue of food insecurity, as people are feeling the pinch in a number of ways, said Starlene Collins, manager of the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies.

“It’s not any one thing, it’s a combination of a dozen things,” she said. “I’ve talked to people trying to help adult kids who have moved back home. Even if your house is fine, maybe a family member is not.”

In the first three months of the year, the organization distributed 34 percent more food in the area, and 122 percent more food to underserved communities in the area, she said.

Mesa County has another indicator that residents are having trouble footing the food bill. In the past five years, the number of food stamps recipients in Mesa County has more than doubled.

In September, Mesa County’s Department of Human Services reported 7,961 people receive the food aid, called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

In 2008, Mesa County reported just 3,638 residents had received food stamps.

Cuts to that federal program may make access to food even more difficult.

As of Nov. 1, families of four people will see cuts of $36 a month or a $432 decrease a year in SNAP benefits. 

Already 15 percent of Mesa County residents or 22,320 residents don’t know where they will get their next meal, according to Gai Wildermuth-Gunter, program coordinator of the Community Food Bank.

Those numbers would twice fill Grand Junction’s High School auditorium, Mesa County Fairgrounds grandstands and Suplizio Field, she said.

There are ways people can help, Collins said.

To begin with, companies could focus efforts on collecting food, instead of participating in the Secret Santa ritual common among offices, she suggested.

Donations of time can be as important as money, Collins said. “Our biggest need here is volunteers,” she said. “The workload has increased considerably. If you’re struggling or unemployed you can help with time if you can’t help with money.”

Contact the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies at 464-1138 ext. 201. Contact the Community Food Bank at 640-0336.


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