In the past two years, the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley (FBNSLV), a network of 15 pantries across all 6 counties of the SLV, has seen our numbers increase drastically at many of our pantries and we’ve worked hard to meet the need. At our Antonito pantry, where we saw our most dramatic increase, the numbers of neighbors served jumped 66% from 2020 to 2021. Other pantries like those in Crestone, Creede, and Capulin saw similar noticeable increases in numbers.
We’ve been lucky to have the strong support of our community and our partners as the FBNSLV worked to meet this need. Early in the pandemic, SLV individuals, businesses, and foundations contributed over $60,000 for the FBNSLV to order a semi-truck worth of food. In addition, our regional food bank Care and Share, which had historically offered non-perishable foods at low-cost to its pantry partners across Southern Colorado, began to offer all food entirely free for ordering. With the option to order some of our annual non-perishable food supply from Care and Share at no-cost, the FBNSLV had more flexibility in food purchasing and was able to order more fresh meat, eggs, and fresh produce for our clients from other local sources.
However, even as COVID restrictions ease across the state and many aspects of life return to normal, our food bank is still seeing the effects of the pandemic in full force. Supply chain issues are worse than ever, and are affecting our food sourcing for the pantry network. Available food to order from Care and Share has dwindled over the past few months, and is currently no longer the resource it was a year ago. The Care and Share team has acknowledged this negative shift in available supply, and while they are working diligently and tirelessly to procure food for their pantry partners, there is not much they can do in the face of global supply chain issues. In a recent email to their partners, they wrote that their largest supplier of purchased food reported that delivery time had doubled or tripled for food items, and products were stuck in ports across the globe. In one example the supplier provided, “White and Brown Rice will have been delayed 150 days by the time it arrives [compared to a 2021 shipping average of 24 days]”. For the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley, this means that an important food sourcing avenue is not the resource it once was.
Compounding with supply issues, inflation is rising and the cost of food and other basic goods is skyrocketing. According to an April 14 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices have jumped 8.8% compared to prices from a year ago in March 2021 - average inflation for retail food over a year is usually closer to 2%. With prices for basic necessities steeply rising, our clients’ dollars won’t stretch as far at the grocery store, and we anticipate seeing higher numbers at our pantries in the coming months due to this. In addition, our own food purchasing budget won’t go as far as it has in past years, and we anticipate we won’t be able to purchase the same quantity of food as we have in the past. Our purchasing power is shrinking as we anticipate an increase in our pantry numbers.
As worrisome as these factors are as we look to the year ahead, we know we can rely on our SLV community to meet the need.
If you’re looking to support your neighbors in need this year, there are a number of things you can do to support the Food Bank Network. You can host a healthy canned food drive at your local church, school, or business (the Alamosa Food Bank has flyers with our most needed items!) You can send a monetary donation to our hub pantry at 513 6th St in Alamosa so that we can purchase nutritious foods from wholesalers in bulk. You can volunteer at your local pantry - there are 15 pantries across all 6 counties of the SLV with varying hours, so you can likely find one to fit your schedule. Finally, you can “grow a row” for the food bank in your local garden this summer - the FBNSLV prioritizes fresh fruits and vegetables, and so produce from local gardeners is always warmly welcomed.
For more information about La Puente’s Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley, call 719-589-4567 or visit https://lapuentehome.org/food-bank/