The mobile pantry is operational | Free content
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Lake County Build a Generation conducted a
is investigating the community’s needs related to access to food, an issue that is not new to Lake County, but that surfaced with rambling repercussions after the pandemic took hold. Around the same time, St. George’s Episcopal Church and Community Meals noticed an increase in participation in community meals and pantry services.
The survey found that many families in Lake County face distinct barriers when it comes to accessing food, including affordability, transportation and stigma. In response, the Lake County Build a Generation’s (LCBAG) Food Access Coalition began a partnership with St. George to launch a mobile pantry.
About a year later, after months of fundraising and renovating an old white school bus, the mobile pantry is fully operational, serving three communities in Lake County on a weekly basis. In addition to the mobile pantry, St. George is also renovating the pantry kitchen, allowing for an expansion of St. George’s offerings.
“Access to food has been an issue in Lake County for a long time,” said Brittany Woodrum, mobile food coordinator and administrator of St. George, who added that at the height of the pandemic, Safeway , Lake County’s only commercial grocery store, regularly ran out of food. But even before that, Lake County’s remote location led to disproportionate prices for produce and other goods, making food unaffordable for some families. “Even though these are old issues, the gravity of the situation really came to light last year, and we knew we had to adapt to meet families where they are.”
St. George started mobile pantry services last month after about a year of fundraising with LCBAG. After receiving $ 25,000 through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the coalition purchased an old school bus and renovated it with shelves, a refrigerator, a freezer and a generator.
Four times a week, Woodrum, along with other St. George staff and volunteers, load the bus with fruits, vegetables, canned goods, tortillas, drinks and other food items. After filling the bus, the team delivers food to three communities in Lake County, including Mountain View Village West on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Mountain Valley Estates on Friday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Lake Fork on Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Although the pantry has only been up and running for a month, Woodrum said 40 to 50 people show up for the Mountain View West and Lake Fork mobile pantry service, while around 15 people attend the pantry. eat from Mountain Valley. And since the bus started its schedule, Woodrum said there has been an increase in St. George’s pantry service from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday. Any excess food or expired food from the drive is either handed over to community members with animals or composted with the Cloud City Conservation Center (C4).
“It’s both good and bad,” said Woodrum, who added that about 200 people frequent the weekly pantry in St. George, in addition to the mobile pantry numbers. “We want more people to use us as a resource, but it also shows how important the problem of food inequalities is. “
Last year also marked the first year that St. George paid for food to store the church pantry. Before that, the church relied on donations of salvaged food from Safeway, grocery stores in Summit County, or donations of fresh produce from farms in Chaffee County or C4. Last year, however, St. George spent about $ 100,000 on food from US Foods and has forecast a similar expense this year. Although the church still has partnerships with groups like C4 and Safeway, US Foods is now the main supplier to St. George.
“The need has really increased,” said Woodrum, “and we’re sort of transforming ourselves to meet that need.”
In addition to the mobile pantry, St. Geroge has also started a $ 500,000 kitchen renovation that will significantly expand the church’s offerings. When complete, the space will include a fully functional commercial kitchen with major appliances and more pantry space. The new kitchen, slated for completion by December, will allow St. George to host more community meals while increasing the shelf life of pantry items through canning and other methods. conservation.
Woodrum added that the space is for community education events on healthy food and cooking techniques, and people looking to sell homemade food as a small business can use the kitchen to avoid fines for non-compliance by cooking at home.
“We’re really excited about all of this,” said Woodrum. “The food insecurity in Lake County is not going to go away, but I hope these are good steps to address these issues.”