The economic collapse has led to a sixfold increase in the number of people seeking food from Lift-Up in the Roaring Fork and Lower Colorado River valleys, the organization reported late last week.
The nonprofit organization was distributing food to about 650 families per month in mid-March. Now it is providing food to about 900 families per week at drive-thru sites in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Rifle and Parachute.
“Unfortunately the numbers continue to go up,” Debbie Patrick, Lift-Up marketing and development coordinator, said Monday.
In addition, Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope is tackling weekly food distribution in Basalt and Aspen. The numbers have swelled each of the three weeks that food has been distributed at Basalt Middle School, according to Sue Ellen Rodwick, branch director. They will have food on hand for as many as 500 families Thursday in Basalt, where Aspen Skiing Co. employees distribute the weekly groceries.
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Rodwick said the distribution hours will be extended at Basalt to handle the demand.
Lift-Up has been feeding the hungry locally for nearly four decades. It had to close its walk-in pantries because of the pandemic and create a new distribution model. People drive up in vehicles and pick up bags of nonperishable goods with canned, bagged and boxed items plus fresh fruit, meat and dairy products when available.
The demand continues to grow on a weekly basis at the distribution times. Patrick said the closure of the tourism-based economy in the area could leave restaurant, hotel and retail workers unemployed into the summer. Lift-Up is prepared for the challenge.
“We’ve been around for 38 years and were able to step into a leadership role,” Patrick said.
While the demand has continued to grow, residents of the region and foundation have helped Lift-Up with the supply.
“We’ve been very blessed,” Patrick said. “The community response has been amazing.”
The assistance is needed for the long haul. Financial donations are what the organization needs most, according to executive director Angela Mills.
“We have created a system out at the Rifle Fairgrounds for bagging all food that keeps our staff and volunteers in self-distancing, we have our distribution sites and systems in place and the community really has been remarkable,” Mills said in a statement. “We just need to keep the funding going as we anticipate this process going through May and want to be ready to help until families can get back on their feet as the country looks to reopening.”
Financial donations can be made at http://www.liftup.org or mailed to Lift-Up, P.O. Box 1928, Rifle, 81650.
Rodwick said people who want to donate specifically to the Food Bank of the Rockies distribution efforts in Basalt and Aspen can make a contribution through Aspen Community Foundation, earmarked to Food Bank of the Rockies. Contributions can also be made through foodbankoftherockies.org. By designating a ZIP code, the contribution will be routed by county.