Food assistance programs serve key community needs | CraigDailyPress.com

Food assistance programs serve key community needs

Love INC administers program on third Tuesday and Thursday of each month

Michael Neary

Pam Lathrop, volunteering for Love INC, talks and laughs with the people coming to the Moffat County Department of Social Services to pick up food. Love INC administers The Emergency Food Assistance Program on the third Tuesday and Thursday of each month.

— For Mary Burnett, one of the benefits The Emergency Food Assistance Program administered by Love INC of the Yampa Valley is the presence of nutritious food.

"The food is healthy, and there's not a lot of salt," said Burnett, who lives at Sunset Meadows II in Craig.

The TEFAP program runs from 9 to 11 a.m. on the third Tuesday and from 3 to 5 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month in the Moffat County Department of Social Services building, at 595 Breeze St.

Pat Jones said the Tuesday time slot tends to be especially busy.

"On Thursdays it's usually laid back, and maybe 20 people come," said Jones, executive director of Love INC, "but (on Tuesdays) we have up to 50 in just the two hours we're open."

Love INC also administers the TEFAP program from 1 to 2 p.m. on the second Friday of each month at the Moffat County Building in Dinosaur. People in Dinosaur must call 970-826-4400, by 5 p.m. on the previous day, in order to receive the food.

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The whole program also extends beyond food. The people who received the food this past Tuesday often lingered to talk with the volunteers passing it out. Pam Lathrop, who volunteers for Love INC and also for Food Bank of the Rockies, often laughed and chatted with the people who came by in a busy, steady stream on Tuesday.

"I like being around the people and try to get them to laugh," Lathrop said. "I'm glad we've got this because there's a lot of people who, if we didn't have this, would really be hurting right now."

Lathrop said volunteers and people who come in often talk about family.

"We know them, and we'll say 'hi' to them and give them hugs," she said. "They're just old friends."

Jones said TEFAP is a state program, administered by Love INC to relieve the heavy burden of duties shouldered by other agencies, such as the Department of Social Services.

"If there's something that's not being done, Love INC's job is to step in and fill that gap," Jones said. "This is a definite gap."

Jones said all the food is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — which she emphasized is an "equal opportunity provider and employer" — and she noted that canned vegetables, beans and fruits are common fare. She also mentioned dried fruits and fruit juices, along with frozen meat and other foods.

Making food available on the third week of the month is an intentional move on the part of Love INC.

"As a community, we came together and had meetings, and we said, 'You know it's really weird: all of the food comes into the community the first week of the month,'" she said.

So, Love INC's timing is designed to reach people when they may be running low on food.

"We receive it and we store it for three weeks, so that we can give it out the third week when people are running down on food stamps," she said.

People can also pick up food by proxy.

Debra Ages, who volunteers with Love INC, picks up food for about eight people.

"Some of them do have jobs, but they're just not able to make enough to make it through the month," Ages said. "The others are mostly disabled and (often) don't have vehicles, so they can't come down."

People who participate in any of a number of public assistance programs qualify for the food, and those who aren't can qualify according to income.

Jones had on hand fliers that show a number of other food assistance sources in the area, including the Interfaith Food Bank, in the American Legion Building; Food Bank of the Rockies, in the Boys & Girls Club of Craig; St. Michael's Kitchen; and the Community Budget Center. People can also apply for food assistance through the Department of Social Services.