Food bank preps for increased need

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Pantry well stocked now, but donations still needed as layoffs hit Ouray County

  • Ouray County Food Pantry volunteer Carolina McAndrews grabs a box of canned food to give to a family on March 19. Volunteers expect the need for food assistance to increase. Mike Wiggins —OurayCounty Plaindealer
    Ouray County Food Pantry volunteer Carolina McAndrews grabs a box of canned food to give to a family on March 19. Volunteers expect the need for food assistance to increase. Mike Wiggins —OurayCounty Plaindealer
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The Ouray County Food Pantry is bracing for a potential spike in the number of families who need food assistance, as the spread of the new coronavirus has suddenly left scores of people out of work.

Public health orders that closed Ouray County lodging facilities to everyone but local residents and people working in the county, shuttered non-essential personal services and limited restaurant service to take-out only has led businesses to lay off dozens of employees in the last week.

‘Our anticipation is that yes, we’re going to have an uptick overall, given that two of the last three weeks our numbers have been higher,” said Susan McMurry, a member of the food pantry’s board of directors.

The pantry provided food to 28 families on March 19, a 25 percent increase from the week before, according to McMurry. That included three new families. McMurry called that “fairly unusual,” noting that the pantry typically serves the same people each week, or perhaps one new family.

All things considered, the pantry is pretty well stocked at the moment. A group of residents on Log Hill Mesa last week organized a food drive for nonperishable items. Mountain Market in Ridgway is donating milk, eggs and produce — fresh items that are rarely available. And two people dropped off checks on March 19, which McMurry said was unusual but welcome.

That being said, McMurry said there are items the pantry can use: canned, diced tomatoes, canned fruit, canned meats, cereal, oatmeal, rice, peanut butter and mayonnaise.

On April 2, the pantry will offer food from two federal government programs, as it typically does the first Thursday of the month. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program serves low-income residents over the age of 6o, while the Emergency Food Assistance Program serves low-income residents of all ages. Both federal programs provide non-perishable and perishable food in greater quantities than the food pantry typically makes available.

The pantry has also implemented new procedures aimed at reducing the chance of virus infection. Families previously signed in, entered the food pantry’s small building and shopped for themselves. Now, volunteers and board members select and package food ahead of time and aren’t requiring those in need to sign anything.

How you can help

The Ouray County Food Pantry, located at 103 Colorado Highway 62 next to the Shell gas station, is open from roughly noon to 3:30 p.m. every Thursday, so that is the best time to drop off donations. A donation box is also available at the Ridgway post office.

If you have a lot of items you’d like to donate, call the pantry at 626-4273 and a volunteer can arrange to meet you at the pantry.