MONTE VISTA - The unexpected winter weather the San Luis Valley received last week is a good reminder to look out for those who may be in need in our communities. The Monte Vista Food Bank accepts donations of coats, hats, and gloves to give to those in need during the winter months. They accept donations of gently used and washed items and will take any sizes from infant to adult. Coat, hat, and glove donations can be dropped off at the Food Bank Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
For those in need of a winter coat, the Food Bank does have a limit of one coat per household but some exceptions will be applied. Last year it was estimated that the food bank gave away close to 75 coats. The food bank has been giving away the winter gear for several years because of the great need they saw for it in the community.
“It’s nice because, yes we have the secondhand stores, and yes you can get coats fairly cheap. But literally for some parents it could be a choice between spending $10 on a used coat at Rainbows End or $10 on food. And that’s just heart breaking to me. I would much rather people use that $10 toward food and come get a coat from us,” said Jennifer Becker who serves as the food bank’s director.
The Monte Vista Food Bank is unique as it is completely self-funded and entirely volunteer operated. “We don’t get any grants or anything like that. We strictly run on donations from the community. Which by the way our community rocks. I mean rocks! I had four people give us their stimulus checks. This community is amazing,” said Becker.
However, they do sometimes have people that try to take advantage of the food bank and so there is a limit on how many times someone may visit the food bank. They are allowed six visits per year and two holidays, giving them eight in total. “We are called the, ‘Emergency Food Bank,’ and when people come in, we have very few requirements to get food. We require ID for anyone over the age of 18 and a DOB on everyone in the household. But the other requirement we have is that they sign a contract states that we are not to be your main food source. We’re an emergency food bank. If you’re out of food then we can help you,” said Becker explaining they had to do it out of necessity as people sometimes took advantage.
Becker when talking about the important work the food bank does for the community shared, “Hunger is real. People tend to look at it as mooching or these people could work. Granted yes some of them could. But a lot of who we help are people that are literally just single parents or in between jobs or seasonal workers that have a hard time finding full time jobs because they have kids. It’s definitely a need that Monte Vista has.” Becker also commented that everyone can come upon hard times saying, “Anyone of us could face a time of need. COVID kind of proved that. We had these people that were working strong and had good jobs and then all of sudden they’re considered ‘nonessential,’ which by the way that word is cringey to me. Because I think everybody’s essential, it’s a job.”
Becker shared that during the shutdowns they had families who had never utilized the food bank that had to come because suddenly they had no job. “Hunger is a very real thing and it can hit anyone,” said Becker.
If you would like to make a donation to the Monte Vista food bank, checks can be sent to their mailing address: P.O. Box 844, Monte Vista CO 81144. They also always accept non-perishable, unopened, unexpired food. The Monte Vista Food Bank serves Rio Grande County.