food pantry

The Sheridan Opera House loaned the food pantry its tent, so volunteers and recipients could maintain a six-foot separation. (Courtesy photo)

 

With great privilege comes great responsibility, so the saying goes. And in an unprecedented time, Telluride’s local food bank is stepping up.

Barb Gross, the volunteer coordinator of the Telluride Food Pantry, described the number of volunteers who have offered to assist, and the sheer volume of donations the food pantry has lately received, in two words: “just amazing.”

The Colorado Trust, a health-equity foundation, reports that the pandemic is creating “unprecedented food insecurity” in this state but fortunately, a lack of food is not the problem at the local pantry.

“We have plenty of food,” Gross emphasized. “The problem is having enough places to store it all.”

The pantry will be distributing food Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at its locale on West Colorado Avenue (please wear a facemask and bring a bag to put your food in).

The service is part of the local charity Angel Baskets, well known in this region for its holiday programs, including Toys for Tickets and Angel Gifts. 

According to Angel Baskets’ website, its local programs provide food “to more than 500 people” a month in Telluride, Norwood and Dove Creek/Egnar. Make that 900, Gross said — the number of recipients the program now reaches as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, “a number that’s huge for us.”

At the same time that more food has been arriving, the Telluride pantry has been making accommodations to keep an increasing number of volunteers and recipients safe and healthy.

It has meant that the pantry now takes up more room than normal “because of social distancing,” Gross said. “We needed to make sure all volunteers and recipients were six-feet apart.”

Indeed, a total of seven tents, borrowed from the Sheridan Opera House, were recently set up to facilitate this effort.

“It was quite extraordinary,” Gross said. “The opera house may need their tents back on Thursday” for the plein air art sales event. “I’m not sure what we’ll do,” she said with the brisk efficiency of someone who wasn’t remotely worried that a new set-up could quickly be put into place. “We shall see.”

The accommodations have also meant tweaking the distributions.

“We used to set it up like a farmers market,” Gross said, but that wasn’t ideal from a safety, or efficiency, standpoint either, because “everyone was taking too much time. We had to speed things up.”

Thus, on Thursday, the pantry will offer bagged and boxed food, in generous amounts.

For example, Sharing Ministries in Montrose has been donating 75 boxes of “plentiful, healthy looking” pre-packed produce each week, Gross said. Each box weighs 25 pounds.

“There’s a three-pound bag of potatoes. A head of cauliflower, apples, oranges … it goes on and on,” Gross said of the contents. “I give out these out pretty quickly.”

Another generous donor is the Salvation Army, which has offered to supply the Telluride pantry with meat, dairy and produce through December.

“We’re looking into purchasing a walk-in refrigerator,” Gross said. “I think I’m going to be good as long as we have a refrigerator to store it all in.”

“From the moment the pandemic hit,” said Telluride resident Jessica Galbo, an Angel Baskets board member who works at the food bank each week, “Barb Gross and her ‘angels’ were in action, providing food for far more families than ever. We’ve also had very generous donations and more volunteers. It’s been a true community effort to keep everyone fed.”

Galbo’s daughter, Arabella, Angel Basket’s student liaison, has helped recruit “high school volunteers to work with the food bank, which has been awesome,” Galbo said. Such an effort is more than a good deed: It could help save lives. “All of the volunteers previously were aged 50 and older,” Galbo pointed out. “We need young people to get engaged and take over.”

To learn more about Angel Baskets and the Telluride Food Pantry or to make a donation, visit tellurideangelbaskets.org.