pantries

Visitation is up at local food banks in Ridgway and Telluride. Pictured above: the warehouse of the Capital Area Food Bank. (Photo courtesy of Tariqabjotu, Muslim American Society Youth, Maryland)

Colorado residents have been directed to stay at home through at least April 11, per an order from Gov. Polis. And a recent directive from San Miguel County’s Public Health Department has extended that directive even longer: through midnight on May 1.

Yet in certain spots, visitation is not only up, but way up: at local food pantries. 

And the pantries say they are keeping up with increased demands during a period of great challenges (including the isolation brought on by sheltering-in-place). 

“We’ve nearly doubled our number of clientele” these last few weeks, said Beverly Angehrn, president of the board of the Ouray County Food Pantry, in Ridgway. “We’re continuing to maintain our regular hours, though some people may not realize we’re still open during this difficult time.” (The pantry, which is located just past the Shell Station on Highway 62 in Ridgway, is open every Thursday from 12:30-3:30 p.m.)

Ouray County residents have stepped up, and “we’ve been receiving very generous monetary donations,” Angehrn said. Ironically, “We’re not getting as many food donations right now,” she added, “probably because people aren’t finding enough food on grocery-store shelves for themselves. With the money we receive, we purchase food through Food Bank of the Rockies, and during this crisis, we’ll also be purchasing from other suppliers. At this point, we’re very confident that we’ll be able to provide enough food” during what Angehrn called “this whole process.” 

Nevertheless, the pantry welcomes donations “of any canned goods and shelf-stable food items” (visit ouraycountyfoodpantry.org to learn more), as well as products such as paper towels and toilet paper. “We’ve changed our procedures” to comply with social-distancing requirements, she said. “Some people might not want to come here right now because they’re concerned about making physical contact with somebody. There is no physical contact — not even minimal contact — between the pantry’s volunteers and clientele, or any contact between the volunteers,” period. 

There’s no physical contact between guests and volunteers at Telluride’s food bank, where the number of visitors has also doubled. The food bank has extended its hours during this unprecented time, and is now open Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. at Aspen Street and the corner of Main Street. 

And while ample food remains available in Telluride — and in Norwood, too, both of which are served by the nonprofit Angel Baskets — it turns out there is a dearth of something food banks usually don’t offer, but many people say they could use some extra help finding, not to mention affording, right now: personal-care and household items. 

On the list of essentials: household cleaning supplies, gloves, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, shaving cream, toothpaste, tampons, laundry supplies, dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectants, and masks. 

“We’re happy to accept whatever you have of these items,” said Yvette Henson, county director of horticulture, agriculture and natural resources for Colorado State University Extension. Over the next couple of weeks, Henson will retrieve these donated items in Norwood (on Friday, April 10, from 5-7 p.m. at the San Miguel County Basin Fairgrounds parking lot). Look for the green cones in the parking lot. Henson will collect personal-care donations in Telluride on Friday, April 17 from 5-7 p.m., curbside at Telluride Christian Fellowship Church. “I’ll be there in masks and gloves to retrieve these items and move them to an isolated shed for a couple of weeks to ‘sterilize’ them,” Henson said, “and whoever is helping me will be wearing them, too.” 

There is so much to think about these days when it comes to protecting each other from a dangerous, highly contagious virus. “I may just have my husband help me retrieve donations, because we live together,” Henson said. “It was really helpful, getting tested recently (by the San Miguel County health department, for Covid-19 antibodies) because I saw how they kept the cars apart” — which is where she came up with the idea of using green cones, “which I happen to have,” to maintain appropriate space between parked vehicles in Norwood. 

“If you want a receipt, please let us know before your drop-off and we’ll mail it to you after you make your donation,” Henson added in a press release, sent to the Planet late Friday afternoon. “Email us at Yvette.Henson@colostate.edu or maryw@sanmiguelcountyco.gov with information about what you’d like to donate, and we’ll contact you about the process. Thank you for your generosity!”