Montezuma County agencies are organizing efforts to meet food needs as restaurants and businesses close and residents stock up at grocery stores.
The COVID-19 Mutual Aid group is facilitating food collection and delivery to support residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Spearheaded by The Sharehouse and Good Samaritan Pantry, both at 30 N. Beech St., organizers are gathering donations of food and money to help feed people in need and supply pantries and soup kitchens.
“Especially now that the restaurants are closed, people are going to be needing food that they might not be able to get from the grocery stores, or they might not have money because they’re not working now,” said Laurie Hall, project manager of The Sharehouse. “So, free food distribution’s going to be primary.”
The Sharehouse is a project of the Montezuma Food Coalition. Its facility stores and distributes produce through local nonprofits. The Sharehouse also partners with its neighbor, the Good Samaritan food pantry, in recruiting volunteers and gathering supplies, she said.
“Really we’re just trying to get as much food coming into The Sharehouse as possible,” Hall said. Once they receive enough to “spread it around,” they hope to supply other pantries and soup kitchens in the region. And through an online form, organizers are gathering information on people who need food brought to them and are finding volunteers for delivery.
The widespread closures from the coronavirus outbreak have had dire economic ramifications, including for many local businesses, eateries and community members.
Local restaurant closures are a concern, Hall said.
“Honestly with the restaurants closing, that’s a huge impact on how people normally get food, if they don’t do a lot of cooking at home, or if their schedules don’t allow, or with kids out of school,” she said.
And employees face uncertainty of not knowing when their next paycheck will arrive or how long the crisis will last.
School closures have jeopardized the food supply for students and families who rely on the school lunch program.
Lori Haukeness, superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1, said the district is providing school lunches this week and will work on a plan for extended school closures.
“We will have a comprehensive plan in the event that school is closed for an indefinite period of time,” she said. “The district may designate drop-off and pick-up locations for parents and students.”
Since Monday, the Good Samaritan food pantry has seen twice as many visitors as usual, said Kirbi Foster, the pantry’s director. The pantry opens at noon, but people have been lining up at 11 a.m.
“People are really worried,” Foster said. “We’ve seen people who are new, whose businesses have closed, and they’re not getting any money. There have been tears, mostly people who have elderly family in other states who don’t have the money to get to them. So they’re worried that they’re going to be quarantined or pass away before they can get to them.”
Usually, patrons pick their food options once a month. But to minimize the number of people inside the space, volunteers are compiling boxes for curbside pickup.
If donations and funding continue, Foster said, she would like to provide visitors with a box a week. Right now, though, they can’t.
Finding volunteers to work in the pantry has been another challenge.
“Unfortunately all the original volunteers who were with the churches, who’d been doing this for years and years and years, were all in the high-risk category,” Foster said. “So they all had to stay home.”
The pantry has since recruited volunteers from the community and AmeriCorps, she said.
Everyone is invited to visit the COVID-19 Mutual Aid group’s website, to sign up for volunteer opportunities, sign up for food or other assistance, or to make a donation to help buy food and supplies.
People without internet access or who need help filling out the forms can call or text 970-560-0119.
Any food or household supply donations can be dropped off at The Sharehouse any day between noon and 4:30 p.m. The Good Samaritan food pantry is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 2 p.m.