A long line of cars snakes around Rifle Middle School’s parking lot on a Saturday morning, waiting for the weekly mobile pantry to begin. A few people get out of their cars to say hi to neighbors who are also waiting in line; kids play in the shade while their parents chat nearby.
One of the people waiting in the line of cars is Maggie. Every Saturday, she attends the mobile pantry with her neighbor, Irene. A lifelong Rifle resident, Maggie worked for Garfield County as a property tax assessor for 16 years before being laid off in July 2020 due to COVID-19 cutbacks. Losing her job meant also losing her health insurance, as well as a steady paycheck to help support her family. Adding to her difficult circumstances, in April 2021, Maggie was diagnosed with a severe illness that put her in the hospital for a month. Thinking about what the bill will be for her stay adds to her already high anxiety.
“It’s been impossible, especially with how high grocery and gas prices have been this last year,” Maggie said. “I’m sick and my husband is in construction up in Aspen, so Irene drives me to doctor appointments and the mobile pantry. We’re pinching pennies. Sometimes all we have is peanut butter and jelly. We come here every weekend to get food. It’s crazy how your life can change overnight. You wake up one day and you realize your life is completely different. It’s been really hard.”
Across the parking lot, Elvira stands beneath a tree with her mother, Guillermina, while her young kids play close by. Elvira comes to the pantry once a month to get food and, when available, diapers for her youngest, who just turned nine months old.
“The food — especially the fresh fruit and vegetables and baby food — helps us so much,” Elvira said. “My oldest is 16 years old and is always hungry. My mom lives with us, too, and this makes it possible to have full meals together. We are very thankful for the Food Bank and how it helps us.”
In Garfield County in 2021, Food Bank of the Rockies distributed over 1.6 million pounds of food, which reflects the high percentage of food insecurity among its 61,685 residents. Maggie and Elvira are just two of thousands of people in Garfield County and across the Western Slope who use a Food Bank of the Rockies mobile pantry to make ends meet. Their reasons vary, from losing a job due to the pandemic, like Maggie, to the high cost of groceries, gas, housing, and other basic needs. No matter the “why,” Food Bank of the Rockies will be there to help. To join us, please consider donating or volunteering today.