By Pauline Benetti
Archuleta Food Coalition
Here we are entering the holiday season with all of its expectations and, at the same time, so many in our community are facing unfortunate circumstances, making the COVID-relief work of the Food Systems/Food Equity Coalition all the more necessary and urgent. The coalition in collaboration with other community organizations is responding on several different fronts.
The coalition’s use of the Participatory Budgeting Process — a process involving community submission of food-related projects for funding and community selection of those that would be funded — is complete and several projects are in progress while two, the Backpack Program and Heritage Cooking Classes, have been put on hold due to current COVID precautions.
The projects in progress are: the After-Hour Food Pantry project submitted by the Food Pantry Network and Pagosa Peak Open School yielding information about the usefulness of extended hours; the building of the Pagosa Farmers Market online platform with its several food and economic objectives, among them the offer of privacy to those who can use support in food purchase; the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) Season Extension program using lighting to increase production during these short days of winter; and the Gift Card Project supported by several community entities helping those who have an immediate emergency need.
The coalition thanks all the individuals and organizations who made this process so very successful and useful for alleviating need in our community.
Plans are underway to use COVID Relief Funding from the CARES Act to support different projects in collaboration with other local agencies: with the Archuleta School District, holiday food boxes will be delivered to families with children in school via the school bus routes, as well as to families with children in the Head Start Program; holiday food boxes will go to seniors and Meals on Wheels clients; from the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership winter CSA will be fresh, nutritious produce that will go to food pantry clients as the GGP increases winter production with growing lights; and with local agencies and our restaurants an initiative is in the works.
The Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado through funding from the Town of Pagosa Springs has worked alongside the Food Coalition to order and procure a variety of foods (some local and regional). These foods have greatly enhanced the offering to the clients of the six food pantries in Archuleta County. Donations received from the La Plata Electric Association food drive are also being distributed through the food pantries in the county.
In this time of giving, we ask our community to support the work of the Food Coalition and help advance food equity in our community by making a donation at our website, https://www.foodcoalition4archuleta.org/donate.html, or by sending a donation with “Coalition” in the memo line to CUMC, P.O. Box 300, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147.