Golden food pantries meeting current high demand but challenges abound

Two pantries report seeing double their typical demand for food

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/4/20

As demand soars amidst soaring levels of unemployment stemming from the COVID-19 epidemic, the staff at Golden food pantries say they have been able to meet the increased demand so far — but are …

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Golden food pantries meeting current high demand but challenges abound

Two pantries report seeing double their typical demand for food

Posted

As demand soars amidst soaring levels of unemployment stemming from the COVID-19 epidemic, the staff at Golden food pantries say they have been able to meet the increased demand so far — but are worried about how long they will be able to continue to do so going forward.

Bethany Thomas, who oversees the food shelf at Calvary Church Golden, said that pantry is currently seeing about double its typical recent demand to access the shelf, which is open to people who live in and around Golden.

“There are always regular folks who access the food shelf but now we're seeing an increased number of new individuals and families who haven't been in this position before where they need to access food resources,” said Thomas. “And we're getting families who have been referred by staff at some of the local schools, which is different for us.”

But just as COVID-19 has created higher demand for food, it has also created a new set of challenges that has made keeping the pantry filled and operational more difficult than is usual.

The Calvary shelf typically relies in large part from donations from Calvary members that have dropped during the pandemic as the church has ceased holding services and other in-person events.

Calvary also normally purchases food from the Food Bank of the Rockies but that is no longer an option either due to the high-demand that food bank is seeing and its decision to prioritize certain larger food distribution operations as “emergency response centers.” Even buying food from supermarkets is now more difficult as many stores are currently limiting the amount of food that can be bought at once.

But despite those challenges with accessing food, Thomas said the food shelf has been managing to keep up with the increased demand so far thanks to monetary donations, including one from Golden's Downtown Development Authority.

Still, Thomas said she is nervous about what the future as she does not feel that demand has started to level off and worries it could increase as people who were previously afraid to venture out, begin to do so.

“So many of the individuals and families accessing the Calvary food shelter have lost their job and now they're uncertain as we all are as to when they'll be able to go back to work,” Thomas said. “And I believe this is going to be a long-term effort into May and June and July until people are able to regain their financial stability.”

Kelly Ivan, the Director of Operations at the Christian Action Guild in Golden, says her organization is facing a similar situation as both its food pantry and rental assistance offerings are seeing an increase in both new and returning clients.

Ivan said in an email that while the CGAC has been “blessed with donations from the community” it is also worried about how far its supplies can stretch, particularly since the US Postal Service's Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive has been postponed until further notice due to the pandemic. All of the food collected at the annual local drive, which was set to take place on May 9 and is part of a nationwide effort, goes toward the CGAC.

“This postal drive generates 25,000 pounds of food,” Ivan said. “This food would stock our shelves through August so we will most definitely be in need of additional food.”

But as the need for food has risen in Golden so too have community efforts to meet it. One of the most high-profile efforts has been BGoldN, a multifaceted effort launched as a partnership between the city, the Golden Backpack Program and the Golden Civic Foundation.

BGoldN initially launched as an effort to help both Golden's restaurants and residents in need of food assistance by paying local restaurants to prepare breakfast and lunch meals which are distributed to residents daily at Bell Middle School. However, BGoldN has since expanded its efforts to delivering meals to seniors and other homebound residents and is now making plans to distribute food to high school and School of Mines students that organizers expect will be in need of it as the economic crisis continues.

Tyson Noeth, the Executive Director of the Golden Backpack Program, said BGoldN has been a huge success as it has taken in over $110,000 in donations and assembled a large army of volunteers. Demand for the meals has also been high, although specific demand has also been difficult to measure because BGoldN has not yet been asking those who pick up the food for information that would allow it to be tracked.

But while that early success is a definite positive, Noeth said he is now focused on ensuring that BGoldN is also in a position to continue to support the community and help in its economic recovery in the weeks and months to come. That's a challenge, Noeth said, because no one is sure how the economic crisis will continue to unfurl, which has left the organization trying to balance meeting current needs while being sustainable into the future.

“We are trying to figure out the unknown which is what will be the need in a week, a month and two months from now and what is the funding going to be like once the economy opens up?” he said. “It's not like all is going to go back to normal. So we are trying to make sure we can be sustainable and not have over $110,000 but its gone in three weeks when we don't know how long this thing could last."

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