Can drive aims to boost stressed Grand County food bank | SkyHiNews.com

Can drive aims to boost stressed Grand County food bank

Tonya BinaSky-Hi Daily NewsGrand County, Colorado

The Mountain Family Center’s hunger-relief services are spiking at time when the area’s food banks are struggling to keep up. The latest statistics show that the Mountain Family has served 2,207 individuals at its food banks from January to August of 2009, compared to 2,467 individuals during all of 2008. As many as 531 individuals were served during July and August alone.”And we haven’t even begun our fall low-season,” said Mountain Family Executive Director Jill Korkowski. “As soon as we get food in, it’s out the door.”For this reason, and in celebration of September’s National Hunger Action Month, the Center has launched a countywide food drive. The purpose of the Action Month is to raise food donations, funds and hunger awareness in the community, Korkowski said.During the drive, a “Walk Away Hunger” 3-K event in Grand Lake along with a 10.5 -foot, 5,000 pound statue made out of canned goods in the Town Park are taking place in tandem with the chamber of commerce’s Fall Bluegrass Festival on Sept. 19-20. “It’s really really difficult to put this burden on the community – asking for more,” Korkowski said. “But neighbors take care of each other, and that’s what we’re hoping – people will realize is that one of their neighbors is quietly visiting a food bank, and that people have no idea how much they are struggling.”For a statue of Smokey the Bear made out of canned goods, about 8,000 cans will be needed to complete his image. The structure may end up being the largest canned structure in Colorado to date.Not only will Smokey bring awareness to Hunger Action month, it also brings attention to the fire dangers that exist from the mountain pine beetle epidemic, according to Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brad Taylor. Denim-clad legs will be made out of Progresso Soup while Smokey’s belly and arms will be built with Van Camp’s Pork and Beans. A hat made out of Campbell’s Soup will crown his head and pine trees made out of green bean cans will provide background. “Canstruction” of the can sculpture begins on Thursday, Sept. 17 and is scheduled to be completed by Saturday, Sept. 19.The goal of the September Action Month in its entirety is $10,000 in sponsorships and walk pledges and at least 10,000 cans of food, Korkowski said.Food donations are accepted at most area grocery stores and libraries. Cans for the statue may be dropped off at those locations, at the Grand Lake Visitors Center, at the Grand Lake Art Gallery or at the statue site at Grand Lake’s town park starting on Sept. 15 before the weekend Bluegrass event. Rent assistance soarsIn its 30th year of operation, the Mountain Family Center is also helping to address an increase in need in rent and mortgage assistance and utility assistance as well as supplying food to families. Last year, the Center provided rent assistance to nine households, but this year the Center has already helped 84 households, more than nine times as many. Utility assistance jumped from 27 households all of last year to 33 households so-far this year.School districts are also tracking an increase in food assistance. The number of East Grand School District students who qualify under free and reduced lunches has more than doubled from last school year to this school year, according to district Superintendent Nancy Karas.- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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