On a cool autumn afternoon, Jay arrived an hour early for the Grand Junction Mobile Pantry near Grand Junction High School. His SUV was first in line, but others soon began arriving behind him. As they waited, Jay chatted with some of the others who attended. Many greeted each other as long-time friends.
Jay’s been visiting the mobile pantry, operated by Food Bank of the Rockies, for about a year. The food he receives, with volunteer help from students at Grand Junction High School, is a big help to the former construction worker. While Jay once had his own company, he had to quit working after he had back surgery two years ago.
Since then, Jay said, rising food prices, combined with changes in his insurance have made the food he receives from pantry particularly important.
For Erica, like Jay, the additional food is especially critical now. “We have nine kids and my husband is out of work, so it’s very helpful,” she said. “We really appreciate it.”
Erica’s children helped high-school volunteers load boxes of food into Erica’s large van while Erica chatted with Cheyanne, the volunteer coordinator of the mobile pantry. They’ve gotten to know each other through Erica’s regular visits.
Several dozen people in cars and on foot showed up on this day to get food, which included plenty of fresh produce such as carrots, peppers, avocados, and greens. There were also dry-good boxes with staples such as peanut butter, pasta, and cans of tomatoes. Usually, there are also cold storage items such as milk, eggs, and butter.
In 2021, Food Bank of the Rockies distributed 105,430 pounds of product through the mobile pantry at Grand Junction High School, said Kaila Green, Western Slope Mobile Pantry Representative for Food Bank of the Rockies. “So far this year, we have distributed 50,882 pounds of product through this mobile pantry,” she added.
The pantry in Grand Junction typically serves about 150 households a month. However, because it is shifting to a once-a-month distribution, “we predict an increase in the numbers we are serving in the coming months,” Green explained.
About 12 to 15 Grand Junction High School students volunteer each time the mobile pantry operates, members of what coordinator Cheyanne calls “Team GJHS.”
Most of those students are members of the Interact Club and Riverside Education Center at Grand Junction High School, groups that became involved with the mobile pantry eight or nine years ago, she said. Cheyanne heads the cultural and linguistic program at the high school and is advisor to the two groups mentioned.
For student volunteers, it’s largely about helping others.
“It feels good. I like to help people,” said Camille, a sophomore at who began volunteering with the mobile pantry last year. She paused briefly as she carried fresh produce to one of the cars in the line.
Caden, who was busily moving large boxes filled with food, said he was volunteering with the mobile pantry for the second time. He added, “I enjoy it. It gets me outside and I like talking to the people. I’m a people person.”