Expansion of the building, drinking water and resource station
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
While the Gunnison Country Food Pantry (GCFP) has played a vital role in providing food assistance to residents in need throughout the Gunnison Valley since its opening in 2006, the pantry has recently gained much larger space for respond to growing demands and fill information gaps for those it serves too. The pantry will expand the resources it offers and collaborate with local healthcare providers and another like-minded nonprofit in its new 7,000 square foot building in Gunnison starting next month. Renovating the space is no small task, however, and the pantry has been raising funds for the effort since purchasing the building last winter. The pantry has secured support from local government agencies and individual and organizational donations, and now there is one last push to reach its fundraising goal in time for its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on the day of Labor Day.
GCFP purchased a new facility at 405 West Tomichi Avenue (Unit 2) in February for $587,500. The facility is set to open not only with a new accessible space for the ADA that accommodates both its visitors and volunteers, but with additional offerings such as a drinking water refill station and a community resource center to offer peer navigation support for behavioral and mental health. Resources.
Having surpassed $500,000 in financial and in-kind pledges, if the pantry achieved an additional milestone of $100,000 in donations before Labor Day, it would unlock a $100,000 match just in time for the opening. – and the pantry is only $30,000 less than the target.
A growing need
The pantry served 1,045 households in the county last year on 6,672 separate occasions, and those numbers are expected to rise. It distributed 230 tons of food in 2021, using additional offsite storage space and working in every nook and cranny of a cramped 900 square foot building. The growing numbers of people seeking food aid add up, whether in the first year of the COVID pandemic when it jumped 80%, when it leveled off and returned to its previous growth by 5-7% every year since 2018, or according to the latest projections which will require a 20% increase, as housing expenses and inflation, among other factors, put pressure on many residents.
The food pantry has opened a distribution site in Somerset serving around 50 families each month and delivers food five days a week in addition to opening doors for shopping three days a week.
“Bottlenecks and gaps in rural food system infrastructure have been exposed, primarily related to lack of storage, aggregation facilities, transport and accessible distribution points,” according to a grant application. that the pantry drafted earlier this year.
The pantry has been saving for the move for seven years, says GCFP Vice President Katie Dix. And the pantry has launched a major fundraising campaign to help with renovations this spring.
The GCFP Board of Directors described the renovations in another recent grant application statement: “GCFP’s design decisions are based on meeting the needs of our beneficiaries, volunteers and employees, the environment and energy conservation The most important considerations in this renovation were safety and the practical use of space for the services we provide.
These design decisions included leveling uneven ground, eliminating stairs, and constructing an ADA-compliant ramp leading to the dry storage area for safety reasons, as many volunteers and grantees in the pantry are old and often move food from storage to the Free Grocery Store section. includes machinery.
Another major component of the project is to purchase energy-efficient, single-storey, temperature-controlled food storage units to consolidate storage from off-site locations and increase storage capacity for perishable foods.
The GCFP has so far raised over $500,000 in funding and in-kind donations for the expansion project. This includes $50,000 from the town of Crested Butte; $30,000 from the City of Mt. Crested Butte; $30,000 from Gunnison County with a commitment to further commitment in the next fiscal year; and according to Dix, “The City of Gunnison has approved the project and will also support it in the next fiscal year.”
Private donors Lenni and Bill Burke have given $50,000 and pledged an additional $50,000 over the next two years, and The Blake Hawk Family Challenge Grant has pledged to match up to $100,000 if that amount is raised d here on Labor Day.
“We’ve raised $70,000 so far,” Dix said of the matching mission. “We only have $30,000 to spend.”
Additional donations to the project came from 160 other donors, both individuals and organizations ranging from a few dollars to several thousand.
“Another 18 people and organizations have pledged to donate by the end of the year,” says Dix, who tracks every detail. “And we also have 32 other donations of resources and labor, ranging from cement to other building materials.”
The next step is to bring together multi-organizational collaboration as the doors prepare to open.
“GCFP is working in partnership with local health providers to fill a critical information gap by providing space for peer navigation support specialists to interact with our beneficiaries to help them meet needs in areas such as that mental and behavioral health issues, that many food insecure people are at risk,” according to a statement published in the GCFP grant application. The partnership with the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District will put a distributor of drinking water available to beneficiaries who live in areas without access to drinking water.
However, the pantry will only use about 4,000 square feet and has reserved the remaining 3,000 square feet for rent. Carbon Creek Physical Therapy, which has been located in the building for several years, and Mountain Roots Food Project have both committed to renting the additional space.
“Every day, GCFP volunteers and staff hear the enthusiasm and approval of our neighbors who recognize the need we serve. Many have themselves been recipients of GCFP food aid. Once in our new facility, in partnership with Mountain Roots, GCFP will continually look for ways to better collaborate with each other and with community partners to ensure our sum is far greater than our individual parts for the benefit of the community,” concluded the board statement.
For more information about the GCFP, to get involved as a volunteer or to donate to its operations or expansion project, visit gunnisoncountryfoodpantry.org.