Throughout the San Luis Valley isolation, poverty, geographic expanse, and limited economic opportunities give way to great human need. As a result, food insecurity, defined by the USDA as when "consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year" is rampant. Food insecurity can also be described as "a financial juggling act, where sometimes the food ball gets dropped," meaning individuals and families often find themselves choosing between buying groceries and paying rent or a bill.Read more: Why Do We Need a Food Bank Network?
The Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley is comprised of 13 food banks located throughout the region. Each Food Bank prioritizes offering nutrient dense perishable and nonperishable food options to anyone who comes in need. In addition to providing food, the Food Bank Network also provides access to educational resources around SNAP benefits and nutrition so individuals and families can get the most abundant and healthiest options for their budgets.
At the Alamosa Food Bank, the hub of the Food Bank Network, donations of perishable food are received on a regular basis (ranging from daily to weekly) from stores such as Wal-Mart, City Market, and Safeway. These donations, along with the generous support of other individuals and organizations, account for a large portion of the food distributed. The Food Bank also purchases roughly $50,000 in food annually which is distributed throughout the Food Bank Network.
Everyone in need is welcome to visit a food bank and receive free groceries. Some, like the Alamosa Food Bank, use a point system where clients are given a certain number of points with which to shop for their items. Others, such as the Monte Vista Food Bank, prepackage the items and distribute a similar package to each client. Regardless of the system in place, each of the food banks tries to offer good, nutritional food options to its patrons.
The Food Bank Network's Gleaning Program collects fresh, nutritious (and often organic!) produce to share with neighbors in the San Luis Valley each year. Groups that participate in the gleaning program experience much more than just the satisfaction of collecting food to help their fellow neighbors. Spending a morning out in the fields provides a glimpse into the major driver of economy in the San Luis Valley - agriculture. There are opportunities to discuss some struggles that farmers and their employees face- such as working conditions and the unpredictability of harvest. Gleaning Work Groups also get to experience a chance to really see where their food is coming from which is an invaluable lesson for young children. Gleaning season extends from August to mid-October, and the Gleaning Program relies entirely on the efforts of generous volunteers.
Food drives allow us to provide a variety of goods on the shelves which allows for clients to pick from greater options. If you would like to hold a food drive for the Food Bank Network please call (719) 589-4567.
Additionally, financial donations allow us to meet the most urgent need – whether purchasing food or covering gas for pick ups.
Or Grow a Row! Dedicate part of your own garden to food bank needs.
And of course we can always use volunteers! Call the office of Volunteer Coordination (719) 587-3499 to learn about special events and volunteer opportunities.