Food banks go to work; COVID takes a bite out of wallets

Sharing Ministries Food Bank in Montrose is limiting foot traffic, but is still assisting its clients, as well as other nonprofits that buy food through Food Bank of the Rockies.

Local charities are upping food availability in the wake of the coronavirus-19 pandemic, which has prompted business closures that are straining residents’ pocketbooks.

“Things are picking up. We’ve been procuring more food and helping more organizations. We’re helping as many people as possible,” said Oneda Doyal, executive director of the Sharing Ministries Food Bank in Montrose.

The food bank purchases food and essentials for pennies on the dollar through Food Bank of the Rockies, which also assists other nonprofits, such as Shepherd’s Hand in Montrose.

As a larger nonprofit, Shepherd’s Hand is also able to procure food orders on behalf of smaller organizations, founder Garey Martinez said.

Martinez already distributes commodities, including meat and vegetables when available, two days a week through Cedar Creek Church at 222 S. Townsend Ave. Because his is a private organization, he is able to offer the food to those who are hungry and distributions are not based on income. Martinez said because of coronavirus-19 (COVID-19), he is adding one more day: Saturdays, from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. The other days are Mondays and Thursdays, at the same time.

Food that does not require cooking is also available to homeless individuals on these dates and times.

Martinez last year partnered with the United Methodist Church to provide a hot lunch to those in need, filling in after the charity Christ’s Kitchen had to close.

The church no longer holds large gatherings at the building, in keeping with state restrictions that limit gatherings to fewer than 10 people to reduce the spread of COVID-19, so the hot meals have been suspended, as has the church’s Sunday evening hot meal.

The church is, however, providing a brown bag meal on Sundays, Martinez said.

“The Methodist church is continuing to share a Sunday evening meal as a brown bag and will continue doing that,” Martinez said, adding Shepherd’s Hand will keep making the food available.

He said he has a good supply for both his charity and the church, as well as the ability to place and collect food orders for other nonprofits through Food Bank of the Rockies. Contact Martinez at 970-433-3690.

Because of COVID-19 precautions, that organization has made some changes in how it provides food to partner agencies. It will not cease food distribution, but needs more funding so that it can purchase food at wholesale or below, through the Feeding America network.

Smaller partner agencies can still go to the FBR warehouse to shop its stock, as well as obtain food orders through larger, emergency partner agencies like Shepherd’s Hand.

“We’re really encouraging collaboration in this time,” said Sue Ellen Roberts, director of FBR in Palisade. “We’re finding some of the small food pantries, because of lack of volunteers, are unable to stay open. They can refer their partners to the larger emergency food partners.”

Food is available for those who need help; visit foodbankrockies.org’s food assistance page.

“We’re staying open. We’re not closing. We are considered essential providers,” Roberts said.

“We have probably doubled the amount of food going out of our warehouse because of the need we’re seeing across the Western Slope.”

Sharing Ministries is also in need of cash donations because COVID-19 and the restrictions in place to slow its spread are driving more people to seek food bank assistance. The ministry is purchasing more food than usual because of this higher demand, Doyal said.

“We will provide for all the smaller agencies for as long as possible. That’s why the financial donations right now are critical,” she said.

Although it is more effective for Sharing Ministries to receive cash donations with which to buy food than to have food itself donated, the charity does welcome donations of paper goods, toilet tissue, baby items and pet food.

“Things that are hard to get a hold of at grocery stores are also hard for us to get a hold of. We know there are people not working right now and not receiving a paycheck. We want to know we’re here for them,” Doyal said.

Sharing Ministries is delivering food to homebound people and seniors, she added, and could soon be seeking volunteers to help those efforts.

Access to the building is limited right now, with only two clients allowed in at a time, in rotation, so that people are not standing in a line as they wait for their turn to receive food.

Those in need of food, including other nonprofits, or those who can donate, should contact Sharing Ministries at sharingministries.com or 970-240-8385, to see if assistance is available.

“We have a giving community and a helpful community. That’s important,” Doyal said.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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