food bank

A volunteer for the nonprofit Feeding America receives a note of thanks from a grateful driver. (Courtesy photo)

The photographs define this pandemic: miles and miles of cars and trucks, brake lights gleaming, paused in a lineup at a food bank.

Across the U.S., millions are besieging food banks, stressing what the New York Times has called “a charitable system that was never intended to handle a nationwide crisis.”

Yet handle it they do: Telluride’s food pantry, for example, is not only open every week on Aspen Street as usual, it is offering extended hours (the pantry will operate Thursday from 3-6 p.m.).

The Telluride Food Pantry, a service of the nonprofit Angel Baskets under the direction of Barb Gross, has worked exceptionally hard to keep up with surging demand.

“Our biggest challenge has been simply getting enough food,” Gross said.

The pantry has served 1,214 individuals so far this month — a total of 493 families — “and that’s just so far,” Gross said. “My belief is that by the end of this month, by Thursday, we’ll have served 1,500 individuals.”

This is a more than 600 percent increase over the number of individuals the food pantry typically supplies.

“I have about a $700 budget each month,” Gross added — not nearly enough money to feed so many new clients.

“We’ve had an incredibly generous response from the local community,” Gross said. “It just blows me away.”

The Town of Telluride has stepped up, too, by graciously donating extra space in the Community Room to store the thousands of pounds of additional food that have been required these past few weeks.  (“Substantial donations of money, time, skills and goods by literally hundreds of people have enabled us to meet this unprecedented need for food,” according to a news release. “Without you, none of this would have been possible. We cannot thank you enough. Please, keep up the good work. This is not over yet.”)

Some things have changed about the way the pantry handles business to keep both employees and customers safe. Food pantry clients — which is to say, residents of San Miguel County and Rico — are asked to wear a mask “covering your nose and mouth” when they stop by Thursday to pick up pre-bagged food. (A medical mask isn’t necessary; a cloth mask or a bandana will do.) If possible, please drive up to the food bank and allow volunteers to come to you. If you must get out of your car, observe a safe, six-foot distance. The contents of each bag are the same. If you cannot use everything in your bag, please donate it back to the food bank, which will sanitize it and redistribute it. Unwanted food can be returned the next time you visit the food bank — which can be as often as once a week if you are truly in need — or to the restaurant La Cocina de Luz daily between 2-5 p.m. Please do not come to the food pantry if you’re sick (instead, send a friend). The food bank is located behind the Second Chance Thrift Store on Aspen Street.

The pantry can use help with specific donations, including non-perishable canned items such as soup, stew, canned corn, green beans or mixed vegetables, and cereal. Unused bandanas or facemasks are helpful, too. Those items can also be dropped off at La Cocina daily from 2-5 p.m. or at the food bank on Thursday. The pantry also has pet food available, courtesy of the Western Slope Pet Pantry. If you would like to make a donation, please do so online at tellurideangelbaskets.org. The food pantry is available via email to answer any questions at contact@tellurideangelbaskets.org.