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Some local food pantries move to in-person shopping, others struggle to find help

Food for more than 9.3 million meals was distributed to area food pantries last year
Volunteers Organizing (2 of 3)
Volunteers organizing food pantry relief at The Round Pantry

Some families continue to struggle with finding enough food for their families even as COVID-19 restrictions decrease. Although numbers have decreased a little at Longmont’s OUR Center, the need continues on. Even though hard times persist, clients who regularly visit some local food pantries will now have the option to pick their own foods. 

On July 1, Community Food Share announced it was opening its doors to once again to allow indoor shopping. The Feeding Families food pantry pivoted to a drive-thru-only service in March 2020 to accommodate families as the pandemic set in. 

The need for food grew as families found themselves without jobs or greatly reduced hours. The Community Food Share distributed enough food for 9.3 million meals to more than 40 local partners, including the OUR Center and The Round Pantry, last year, according to a news release from the Community Food Share. 

Patrons can visit the food pantry — located at 650 S. Taylor Ave. in Louisville — to choose fresh produce, high-quality meats, dairy products and more, according to the news release. 

 “The reopening of our indoor food pantry is a milestone that our food bank’s staff, volunteers, and program participants have long-awaited,” said Kim Da Silva, CEO of Community Food Share. “The model allows our visitors to handpick every item that they take home, just like a traditional grocery store.” 

Shopping at this location is available on Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Wednesdays remaining open to drive-thru access, according to the release. 

The indoor pantry is only available to adults, and the Community Food Share is asking that clients with children present visit only on Wednesday for the drive-thru line, according to the release.

The OUR Center in Longmont has spent months planning how to transition back to in-person shopping, said Executive Director Marc Cowell. 

The OUR Center has decided to take a tiered approach to reopen the building and restart all its services. It hopes to begin the “new normal” by early September, Cowell said. 

For the last month, the noprofit’s staff has met with clients both virtually and in-person.

“That’s going well,” Cowell said. “We received a lot of feedback from both our staff and community members that they really enjoy meeting in person again and seeing people, not behind a computer screen but live and in-person.”

OUR Center has already opened its indoor market to the community but only on Wednesdays each week from 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-3:30 p.m. and by appointment only. Currently, drive-thru distribution is offered the other four days of the week.

The organization expects to open its market without reservations on August 2 with the following schedule:

  • In-person: Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-3:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 1-3:30 p.m.
  • Drive-thru: Tuesday 1-5:30 p.m. and Thursday 8-11 a.m.

OUR Center staff are using the limited indoor appointment to test some new ways of better serving the community through the market. 

“Prior to the pandemic, probably the biggest concern we received from community members was how long it took for someone to come into the building, be able to access the market and be able to leave with food,” Cowell said. 

Clients enjoyed the quicker distribution the drive-thru offered which prompted staff to streamline the process. Clients will now have the option to place an order with staff for non-perishable items, which will be gathered while clients choose from an assortment of perishable items in the market. They will also be able to gather all of their items themselves. 

“For some people, the choice of food wasn’t as important as being able to get in and out as quick as possible,” Cowell said. 

Also, in early August the center plans to reopen its café and serve lunch indoors, followed by breakfast a few weeks later. 

While OUR Center plans to continue to offer drive-thru food distribution, it is likely it will end its pick-up-and-go meal service due to a lack of bandwidth. 

The Round Pantry, located at Westview Presbyterian Church at 1500 Hover St., understands the limits of bringing on new change due to a lack of volunteers. 

During the pandemic, the Round Pantry too scrambled to pivot to a drive-thru option for over 9,000 households in need of food, said Pastor Vickie Kintzel of Westview Presbyterian Church. 

The Round Pantry provides food at no cost every second and fourth Tuesday of the month and relies on volunteers to sort and distribute food to over 600 families who frequent the pantry. 

Although guidelines allow, the Round Pantry will not give up the drive-thru at least through September due to a lack of volunteers this summer, Kintzel said. 

“Moving from out to in is very different than it was moving the pantry outside,” she said. “We just don’t have enough volunteers to do both.”

Kintzel hopes to be able to explore a hybrid option in the near future but the Round Pantry team is still deciding what that might look like, she said. 

The Round Pantry received a $45,000 grant in January that allowed them to purchase fresh produce and high-quality meats. The funds had to be used by June which leaves the Round Pantry looking for new ways to continue to supply these foods to clients. 

The Round Pantry accepts financial donations to purchase these foods as well as overflow produce from personal gardens, Kintzel said. Donations can be made on the Mondays before the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at the church.