To combat hunger in the community, the Mount Lookout Grange, Mancos FoodShare and Tiopsaye Outreach Group have embarked on a $60,000 fundraising campaign to build a Mancos food pantry for those in need.
For years, the Lookout Grange hall at 680 Grand Ave. has hosted community dinners, classes and meetings.
Now the organization plans to expand the building by about 425 square feet to make room for a commercial kitchen and food pantry.
“Hunger does exist in our county and town,” Mancos FoodShare director Gretchen Groenke said during a meeting at the grange Aug. 4. “This project allows for food to be stored and gives people more access to healthy food year-round.”
Families in economically depressed areas like Montezuma County often struggle to provide healthy food for their family, she said.
According to the Colorado Department of Health, 55 percent of children in the county qualify for free and reduced lunches at school. Statewide, the average is 42 percent. In the Mancos school district, 59 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Groenke said food and nutrition needs in the community outweigh local resources because of lack of storage. Too often, there is no place for farmers to donate vegetables, eggs, meat, and dairy products that don’t sell at the market.
“A food pantry addresses those needs by allowing us to share our abundance from farms and gardens,” Groenke said. “For example, let’s not waste all of those apricots falling off the trees this year.”
As part of the project, the grange’s kitchen will be expanded and upgraded so it can be certified for commercial use. That certification would allow for food to be preserved, such as by canning, freezing, and dehydration, and then given away through the pantry.
Under the plan, the commercial kitchen would also be used for public cooking classes and could be rented out to cottage businesses to make products for sale. The food pantry would have a separate public entrance from the main grange hall. Mancos FoodShare has been looking for a permanent home. They were recently denied use of the Mancos Community Center for their base operations.
Local farmer Kathryn Fulton, of Kestral Farms, was supportive of the grange’s food pantry project.
“The biggest problem I have is no one will take the extra produce that I grow, so I’m thrilled to be able to bring it here,” she said at the meeting.
So far $12,000 of the $60,000 needed for the project has been raised. For more information, or to donate money or materials, go to bit.ly/mancosfoodshare