How a capital project in Mesa County could expand aid against food insecurity in Moffat County
A multimillion-dollar expansion of a food aid distributor in Grand Junction will bring more support to Moffat County residents living in food insecurity.
Earlier this year, Food Bank of the Rockies — whose Western Slope partners are currently based in Palisade — announced a capital project that will cost $10.8 million. The project will build the new Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center in Grand Junction, which also serves local food banks in Moffat County.
Western Slope Director Sue Ellen Rodwick said that, through the expansion, Food Bank of the Rockies will better serve its Moffat County partners and continue its own distribution services to the northwest corner of the state. The plan to create a new facility was in the works before 2020, Rodwick said, and staff had already started seeing that the original building couldn’t handle the need across the Western Slope. Financial hardships caused by the pandemic only accelerated the timeline.
“We’ll offer more of a variety of items and fresher items, as well,” Rodwick said. “(It will) enable that opportunity for more fresh produce to our partners. We’re also working to offer more culturally appropriate foods, as well. For people in minority groups that want certain foods, boxed macaroni and cheese may not be what they’re used to eating. For Latino and Hispanic families, we’ll have tortillas, and when they’re in season, we can provide different kinds of peppers. At Christmas, we can have corn husks so those families can make tamales. That way our services can be utilized by more families.”
Currently, Food Bank of the Rockies serves more than 145 partners across the Western Slope, including aid-providers in Moffat County. Last year, Food Bank of the Rockies distributed 12.5 million pounds of food to people across the region, which is more than any other time since the agency expanded to serve the Western Slope over two decades ago. The larger distribution center will drastically expand how many meals are distributed every year, Rodwick said.
“The new building will have better access to truck routes,” she said. “We’ve gone from having about two trucks per week, to an average of ten trucks per week. We’ve increased our own fleet, as well. We’re going up to Craig and Steamboat every week, so the expansion is ensuring fresh foods and produce for our partners.”
Moffat County partners include the Boys and Girls Club, Horizons, the Community Kitchen at St. Michael’s and Love INC. The monthly mobile pantry that Food Bank of the Rockies brings comes every second Monday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon.
Beth Newkirk, an organizer of the Community Kitchen in Craig, said that she and other volunteers distribute about 400 meals per week, and their partnership with Food Bank of the Rockies greatly helps get those meals out to whoever needs them.
“They’re a very big help,” Newkirk said. “The last order we got from them, we got $800 worth of product for free. We get an allotment — so it has to be purchased through them, but they have a lot of vendors to choose from so we can get food.”
Funding for the distribution comes from a variety of sources, including the sale of the current building, a New Market Tax Credit allocation, and philanthropic giving including gifts from Bruce Etkin and his family, totaling nearly $7 million. The other $3.8 million will come from community support.
EverGreen Boxes, one of the services offered to Moffat County, are free boxes of food provided to income-qualifying individuals at least 60 years of age with the goal of providing key nutrients. Each box includes about 35 pounds of shelf-stable food items, such as cereal, rice or pasta, protein, shelf-stable milk, canned fruits and vegetables, plant-based protein (such as peanut butter or canned beans), and tomato or fruit juice. A two-pound block of refrigerated cheese comes alongside the box, and EverGreen Boxes also include two recipes that can be made using the box’s ingredients.
Rodwick said that, through further distribution of the EverGreen boxes, older members of the community will be able to stretch their paychecks more, especially as the cost of groceries rises from inflation.
“Right now, Moffat County is one of the counties we are most concerned about,” Rodwick added. “We know there’s people that need food, and we are working to get more meals over there.”
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