“Fill the Van Needs Drive”

By Sam Kelly

La Puente AmeriCorps Vista

Across the San Luis Valley, there is a network of 15 food pantries. Each one shares a vision to serve each person who has a need for them. During this time of COVID 19, these small pantries have seen a major increase in need, with many more families that have come for the first time in March of this year. With only two paid staff, La Puente’s Food Bank Network depends on over 60 volunteers to run the day-to-day operations of these food pantries.  None of them are paid. They have chosen to continue to serve their communities, often in innovative ways. The people they serve are their friends and neighbors.

Volunteers at La Puente work tirelessly to ensure their clients are well-fed. Sherice Shiner, the Healthy Communities Organizer for the Food Network Bank of the San Luis Valley, has said about her work “I have the privilege to work with these amazing people, every day, every week… I’m in the big green van that you see zooming around town. Every week I work to make sure these outlying pantries have enough fresh produce, bread, dairy, and canned goods to keep going.”

With recent community support, La Puente was able to purchase a semi-truck load of food to help ensure these panties have enough food to keep up with the increase in demand. But food is not all the food pantries need to actually help ensure our neighbors are getting fed.  With an increase in food pantry customers, there has also been an increase in the need for cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and egg cartons to help carry their emergency food home.

This is why La Puente has decided to host their annual Fill the Van event as part of their Hunger Education Week, though it will be held in a different way than in the past. The event will take place Wednesday, April 29th at the corner of 6th and State, in the parking lot by the Alamosa Food Bank from 10 am to 6 pm. Volunteers will be stationed by the iconic green van to accept donations and take pledges to volunteer with local hunger relief efforts. Donations can be as simple as the bags you picked up at your last grocery trip. If you wish to donate your time instead the food bank could always use more volunteers to take the strain off of La Puente volunteers. They are asking for help from the community to make this event a success. Their goal is not only to help the Food Bank but also to bring together the community during this time of crisis and to remind us all that we are stronger together. If you can’t make it in person, but would still like to support La Puente’s Food Bank Network visit www.lapuentehome.org/FilltheVan to learn more.