ALAMOSA — 2020 was a difficult year for all of us. Our community experienced unprecedented need. However, we also experienced unprecedented generosity. The thoughtful donations from individuals all across Colorado and beyond, as well as new grants that came about to help with COVID, allowed the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley to meet the increased demand for their services.
Over the course of 2020, the Food Bank Network served 9591 unduplicated individuals in 4092 households. That includes all 15 food banks in the network that are spread throughout the San Luis Valley. Some of these food banks saw an incredible increase in clients between 2019 and 2020. Antonito in particular saw a 226% increase in the number of individuals they’ve served. However, that’s not all the changes Antonito saw throughout the year.
Mike and Karen LaForest are the volunteers in charge of the Antonito Food Bank. Like every outlying food bank in the Network, meaning every food bank besides the one in Alamosa, the Antonito Food Bank is completely volunteer run. Mike and Karen run the food bank in their spare time because they love the opportunity to give back to their community, as well as being able to experience the generosity of their neighbors who come to donate whatever they can. This past year, they were able to secure a larger building for their food bank without a large increase in rent. Mike was happy that the food bank has a guaranteed home for the next 10 years at least. This larger building helped them to keep up with the larger demand brought about by the events of 2020.
The Antonito Food Bank was not the only one to experience an increase in demand. The Crestone Food Bank, run by volunteer Marge Hoglin, had a 103% increase in the total number of people they served. To keep up with this added demand, Ms Hoglin was able to make a deal with their local grocery store. People who were shopping at the grocery store wanted to know how best to donate to the food bank. The grocery store allows customers to purchase an entire pallet of food for the food bank and the store adds it to their order.
Volunteers of the Food Bank Network have learned to develop creative solutions like this because they are not as centrally located as Alamosa. The Alamosa Food Bank, which serves as the headquarters of the Food Bank Network, is afforded high levels of community and direct retailer support due to its central location and public visibility. The Networks’ outlying food banks often have more struggles because they are located in food deserts. A food desert is a location where it is difficult to buy good quality and affordable healthy food. Since hunger is not only a calorie issue, but also a nutritional one, this makes life even harder for those living in poverty. The presence of the network, which connects all 15 of the food banks, allows for easy transportation and trade of resources. The Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley and their dedicated food bank volunteers are working to bring healthy options all across the San Luis Valley.