Look for red buckets and fill them up
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
As we all stock up our own cupboards in preparation for holiday feasts, now is a good time to grab an extra can or two of your favorite items to help stock the Gunnison Country Food Pantry during their holiday food drive. The pantry has received fewer donations over the past six months than it did previously, and yet the need for food assistance in Gunnison County is growing.
The pantry’s executive director Jodi Payne said that they need general staples and have also provided many recipients with traditional holiday items.
“Over Thanksgiving, we gave away ingredients for 95 meals, including turkeys, corn, stuffing and sweet potatoes. We were really proud to give away those meals,” says Payne.
While there is not a specific giveaway scheduled for Christmas, the pantry is collecting food in its trademark red donation buckets to help people get through the darkest, often coldest days of winter. The buckets can be found at various locations throughout the county, including all the regional grocery stores, chambers of commerce and other public spaces.
“We encourage folks to drop a can in the bucket. We have been seeing a little bit less in those buckets in the last six months. The Boy Scouts, for example, brought in 5,000 pounds of food last year. This year, it wasn’t even close to that amount. We’re hypothesizing that its due to inflation, where people are finding that just feeding their own families is expensive,” says Payne.
The most needed items are hearty cans of soup, tuna packages and Payne says, “We always, always can use peanut butter and jelly—those are staples. I encourage folks to think about something with nutritional content and give something that they would want.” She said when shoppers are considering items to donate, when they are of higher quality, those donations supply a lot of dignity to their recipients.
Payne has been sitting as executive director of the pantry for just under a year, and offers the community at large a big thank you. “We’ve had a really wild year of fundraising, and purchasing and now transitioning into our new building. As a new director, I’ve felt really grateful to be in a community that is invested in taking care of their neighbors at such a dedicated level,” she said.
The pantry is always interested and encourages new volunteers, she said, particularly as they prepare to move into the new location in early February or March.