ALAMOSA – Shelves of bread. Bins of potatoes. Crates of squash, radishes, peppers, oranges and rows of canned goods lined up on the shelves. It looks and feels like any other small grocery store that is run by a group of people who care about what they do.
There is just one big difference. This isn’t a grocery store, per se, but it’s clearly a place where people get groceries. And, as the sign on the front of the building says, it’s part of La Puente’s Food Bank Network, comprised of 15 pantries spread out throughout the San Luis Valley. .
That was the environment where John Lee, Spectrum’s Senior Manager of Government Affairs and Neal Gilb, Spectrum’s Director of Government Affairs joined State Representative Donald Valdez, Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman and La Puente Executive Director Lance Cheslock for the presentation of a $5,000 check and 15 brand new Chromebooks from Spectrum
Prior to the presentation, Annalise Baer, Director of La Puente’s Food Bank Network, provided a brief overview of the scope of the 15 pantries that make up the Food Bank Network. “Every year, we serve about 10,000 unique individuals including around 30,000 to 40,000 multiple visits. That totals about 300,000 visits that are made to our pantries each year.”
As Baer describes it, there are two priorities to the organization – nutrition and dignity.
“Our nutrition policy guides what food we purchase, making sure that any money spent is spent on healthy foods,” she says. The program is also supported by other efforts such as the Vegies Program, the “Cleaning” program where people pick up vegetables from fields that have been left behind and the Rio Grande Farm Park who is an ongoing partner in providing fresh produce.
Dignity is also key. “We don’t do a means testing,” Baer says. “The points that people can use toward obtaining food is based on the number of people in their family, and the selection of food allows people to make choices that fit with their preferences and culture."
She also adds that the enormous amount of ongoing work is accomplished by more than sixty volunteers with only two paid staff.
“Thank you very much,” she told Lee and Gilb. “Your donation couldn’t have come at a better time.”
John Lee was highly complimentary of what he saw in action at the Food Bank Network.
“It’s very clear the support offered here is vital to this area and the surrounding communities,” he says. “No sum of federal spending can equal the force of boots on the ground carrying out the work that needs to be done.”
Referencing the donation of the Chromebooks, Lee spoke of similar goals – supporting the provision of needed services to those in need of some assistance, specifically via the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal program available through Spectrum which provides eligible individuals and family with a $30 monthly credit toward their internet bill.
“Internet is needed for everything these days – telehealth, school, communicating with someone via email. It’s in every part of life.”
Cheslock expressed his thanks, as well, commenting on the timing of the donation and the multiple ways the Chromebooks will be used, focusing first on families with kids who need access to the internet for schools followed by providing one or two to street outreach workers who will benefit from their portability in pulling up forms when working with people in the locations where they have chosen to find shelter.