Grand County food pantry credits community’s support as it faces rising demand, prices
Mountain Family Center leaders: Nonprofit's grocery spending is more than double pre-pandemic levels
On a snowy December day, an elderly community member stopped by Mountain Family Center’s Kremmling Food Pantry. Throughout the year, Mary, whose name has been changed for this story, often visited the pantry for a few items — milk, eggs or cheese. While she was always thankful for the items, she said she’s most thankful for the meaning behind them, and that employees were there to offer their company, especially over the holidays.
“For me, that’s the best gift,” Mary told them during a recent visit to the pantry.
The holidays are traditionally a time for gratitude. People reflect on what they are most thankful for that year, whether it’s an important milestone or simply being around family. However, for some Grand County residents, holidays push struggles to the forefront — they might not be able to provide the presents on their children’s wish list, may have to cut corners for the Christmas meal, or they might not have family nearby to celebrate with.
For these community members, nonprofit organizations like Mountain Family Center provide groceries, gifts and social support to help community members enjoy the holiday season.
“In November, (the center) ensured that 1,485 people were able to prepare and enjoy a holiday meal,” said Helen Sedlar, executive director of Mountain Family Center.
The nonprofit also provides gifts for families with children under 18 years old in December. Children can pick out items from Mountain Family’s toy room. The program offers games, toys, toiletries, clothing and more. Families in need can also be sponsored by another family or organization that donates the presents on their wish list.
Sedlar said the gift program typically helps over 400 families; this year, Mountain Family partnered with Joyful Givers, part of the Grand Angels nonprofit, to provide presents.
For seniors, Mountain Family offered a holiday party and nighttime tour around Granby to see Christmas lights this December. It was an opportunity for residents who may be homebound over the holidays a chance to celebrate with others.
Many residents express gratitude for Mountain Family’s holidays programs, as well as year-round services, such as food pantries. In 2022, residents have needed the Mountain Family Center more than ever.
Community donations tend to rise over the holidays, but Mountain Family Center welcomes assistance year-round.
- Community members ready to lend a helping hand can participate in a locally organized food drive at their grocery store
- Donations can also be made directly to Mountain Family. People are encouraged to call 970-557-3186 to see what items are needed and donate to them directly.
- Volunteers are also welcome. Applications to volunteer can be at MountainFamilyCenter.org.
“Surprisingly, (the center) has counted over 10,000 Grand County food pantry visits just through November and anticipates counting close to 11,000 by the end of the year — which will mark the busiest Grand County food pantry year for (the center),” Sedlar said. “This is well above the numbers we counted in 2020 and 2021 during the height of the pandemic.”
There were 9,053 food pantry visits in 2020, but more overall requests for services that year.
The impact of inflation in Grand County
Rising inflation rates have brought food costs to an all-time high since the beginning of 2022, but inflation also tends to impact rural areas like Grand County more severely. Food must be trucked longer to reach destinations, raising prices; on top of this, rural residents usually travel farther to get to work, school and grocery stores.
Sedlar explained that inflation is driving Mountain Family’s current hunger relief efforts, and is likely contributing to the spike in food pantry visits.
“Most households are spending $350 to $400 more a month on the same items they purchased last year,” she said. “Each of us has experienced the rising costs of groceries, forcing many households to cut back on buying eggs, milk and certain meats.”
Rising inflation’s effect on food pantries
Sedlar said that Mountain Family purchases half of its food pantry groceries from Food Bank of the Rockies, which has reported groceries costing 15% to 30% more on average. In October, the Food Bank wrote that certain staples have skyrocketed in price — potatoes rose by 71%, sweet corn by 61%, onions by 50% and cucumbers by 39% from their 2021 prices.
“Those costs are being passed on to (Mountain Family),” Sedlar said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mountain Family would spend about $75,000 a year on groceries. Since 2020, they have been spending anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 annually on groceries because of inflationary pricing and increased community needs.
On top of this, Food Bank of the Rockies has been short on granola bars, tuna, ramen, crackers, cereal, oatmeal, shelf-stable milks and other proteins.
Grand County community steps up to help
Despite these economic challenges, Mountain Family has kept their pantries stocked and ensured everyone received plenty of groceries this holiday. How? Sedlar says the answer is Grand County’s giving spirit.
“Mountain Family Center has received tremendous support through the community for its hunger relief efforts,” said Sedlar. “Individuals, businesses and clubs have been helping (Mountain Family) stock the pantry shelves with groceries.”
Local churches, Mountain Parks Electric, the Fraser River Valley Lions Club, and West Grand and East Grand schools have all held clothing and food drives to help Mountain Family meet their current needs.
“Only with the help of our community has (Mountain Family) been able to offer groceries to everyone who has visited a pantry location,” she said.
On Nov. 17, Middle Park Health, Grand County EMS and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office competed in the Battle of the Medical Field Food Drive, which resulted in thousands of food items and hundreds of dollars donated ahead of Thanksgiving. On the same day, The Grand County Association of Realtors donated $10,000 and several boxes of coats to keep residents warm this winter.
“While hunger relief has been a major focus over the year, housing, utility assistance and senior services followed closely,” Sedlar said.
She says local support has been critical to helping Mountain Family meet the increased demand of the past few years, which she doesn’t anticipate diminishing very much during the coming year.
“As (Mountain Family) prepares for 2023, challenges are sure to be present, based on the previous three years,” Sedlar said. “Community support helps (Mountain Family) weather these challenges by providing the means to gather and build resources for individuals or families who may be struggling. Alleviating barriers helps people move forward.”
Editor’s note: Sky-Hi News reporter Meg Soyars also works as the community programs coordinator for the Mountain Family Center.
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