City to partner with food bank
Last updated 12/16/2020 at 10:51am
The downtown Fountain community should soon have a new resource for food thanks to a partnership between Care and Share and the city of Fountain.
City officials announced they are working on a $1 per year lease arrangement for Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado to occupy a portion of the Walt Fortman Center – which until recently housed REACH Pikes Peak. Care and Share officials say they hope to be up and running in late January or early February.
"Our vision is to get food to people and feed the neighbors in need there," said Lynne Telford, Care and Share Food Bank CEO. "Our emphasis is on fresh food."
The operation will be called Sunnyside Market at Walt Fortman Center. It's a new food distribution model where people can come in and "shop" for the types of items they know their family will use and enjoy, rather than receiving a pre-packaged box full of various items. Care and Share has one such market nearly ready for opening in East Pueblo, and Fountain will be the second site of this type.
Organizers hope to have the market open a couple of days a week initially, but it may expand depending on the need. They also emphasized they will coordinate with existing food pantries such as Connections 4 Life, God's Pantry, Times of Refreshing and By Grace Community Center to avoid duplication of services and offer the market at times when the others may not be available.
Fountain City Council Member Sharon Thompson has been at the forefront of the effort to secure another food source for downtown Fountain, particularly after other providers had left the area.
"When REACH Pikes Peak suddenly had to close, I was concerned with the south end of Fountain, the area I represent, and the hole that would leave immediately for the people used to visiting that location," Thompson said. "I knew there were other locations in the area offering food, but was concerned with the time it might take for the clients to find those locations, figure out when they were open, and for those locations to be able to provide for those additional clients."
Thompson had developed a relationship with Tabi Rackley, senior regional manager for Care and Share, several years ago. They stayed in contact, so Thompson reached out to her to see if Care and Share could assist with extra food at the Second Friday distribution or their Mobile Market truck to help with immediate needs.
"I was hoping Care and Share could help for a few weeks to get people needing food served with other pantries such as Salvation Army or Connections 4 Life, but Tabi's vision for Fountain was and is much larger," Thompson said.
Telford explained that the Care and Share board actually had identified this type of market as one of its goals for the near future, so the need that arose in Fountain matched that vision perfectly.
Thompson said she was pleased to learn Care and Share had agreed to name the new program "Sunnyside Market at Walt Fortman Center" to honor the historical significance of the location. The city-owned building is known to local residents and may offer some sense of continuity despite the change in operators.
Telford said Care and Share is excited to roll out this new endeavor and bring food directly from the food bank to the community. It's a deviation from their normal operations, which typically involve providing food to various pantries and having them distribute it in their own manner. Where those pantries don't exist, Care and Share tries to fill the gap and provide a direct service to residents, but those opportunities have been limited.
At Sunnyside Market, residents will be asked to complete a one-time application. On future visits, their shopping and checkout will be streamlined and simple, Telford said. Although certain items will have quantity limits, shoppers will be able to choose items of their liking to some degree. Telford said screening questions will be as limited as possible to make the process easy for everyone.
"We don't want people left out if they need food," she said.
Telford noted the need for food in this area has increased dramatically this year with all the business shutdowns.
"Overall, throughout our system, we're seeing more people who need food because so many people have lost their jobs," she said.
Sunnyside Market will have one employee, but volunteers will be recruited to help in the near future. Anyone interested in volunteering may email [email protected] to express interest. The organization's website, http://www.careandshare.org, should have a section for the market up soon.