ALAMOSA — One in four people in the San Luis Valley face food insecurity at least once a year. To help make sure no one goes hungry the new Fort Garland Food Bank opened Monday to serve the community. It is the 14th food bank in the Valley and the second to open this year after the pantry on the Adams State University campus.
“Here in Fort Garland the need is real,” said Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley Director Lyndsey Williams. “Costilla County consistently ranks as one of the poorest counties in Colorado and we’ve struggled in the past to have a stable and consistent fully stocked pantry open here.”
This year the FBNSLV has served 356,085 meals to 12,757 individuals, with 2 percent of those from Costilla County. The new food bank has been in the works for roughly eight years and provides a service to residents who travel an estimated 50 miles one way to reach a grocery store.
“We’re so far from town that just to make a trip to the grocery store is an adventure,” said Rural Outreach Initiative Case Manager Matt Little. “The need for this kind of program is great, just because we are so far.”
The pantry doesn’t replace a regular store because clients can only receive three days worth of meals once a month. Instead, it acts as an emergency service for when times are tough. As a Costilla County resident himself, Little works for La Puente to deliver goods to people in the "Iraqi Flats" south of Fort Garland.
“You’ll still have to go to town, but at least you won’t have to go for your basic needs,” Little said.
“We’re so blessed to be able to open this up,” Fort Garland Food Bank Manager Jeannie Miller said. “I’ve lived here all my life and there’s so many people I don’t know so I’m hoping this food pantry will also get us to know each other and build a community.”
To help fill the pantries the FBNSLV has rescued 130,994 pounds of food that could have gone to waste from retail establishments and farms this year.
Some of the network’s next goals are to reopen the food bank in San Luis, which has been closed for the past three months, and receive enough funding so that the food bank in Alamosa can serve food a full 12 months out of the year to keep up with demand. Currently the Alamosa Food Bank can serve a client for eight months and the San Luis pantry is lacking a volunteer manager.
“I don’t think it will be too hard,” said Williams. “It’s just a matter of finding of a committed community volunteer who is willing to open that pantry for at least three hours once a week. Nothing has quite landed yet but I have high hopes for it.”
The new food bank is located at the Holy Family Catholic Church at 626 Beaubien Ave in Fort Garland and will be open every Monday from 1-4 p.m.
“Everybody is welcome,” said Miller. “We have a need here and we need to use it.”