Salvation Army’s Produce for Pantries program fill foods pantry with healthy options
Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series of stories about the food system and sustainability in Eagle County. The first part focused on Vail Honeywagon’s plans for the first community compost center in the county and can be read online.
EAGLE COUNTY — Growing your own food in the high country can be difficult, and attempting to grow in the winter can be daunting.
The Vail Valley Salvation Army’s Mountain Harvest Coalition realized this and, in response, constructed a greenhouse to grow food year-round to help fill its food pantry for those in need 12 months out of the year.
“We’re looking forward to knowing that our families in need will have access to that fresh, healthy food all year-round,” said Meighen Lovelace, a volunteer for the local Salvation Army who helped orchestrate the greenhouse in Avon.
The greenhouse will complement the Produce for Pantries program, which is in its fourth year at the local Salvation Army.
“It enables community members, community gardens, local farmers and ranchers to donate a portion of their yield to our food pantry,” Lovelace said, “which then allows for fresh, healthy, whole food to be donated directly to families in need.”
The Vail Valley Salvation Army provides fresh food for 500 families, many who get their only fresh food in their diet from the pantry, as well as many individuals who battle financial constraints, said Tsu Wolin-Brown, coordinator for the local nonprofit.
“It’s very important, and that’s why we wanted to do the greenhouse — because it’s year-round,” Wolin-Brown said.
“It’s also a great way to engage the broader community in conversation of healthy food and food access,” Lovelace said.
The greenhouse got off the ground thanks to volunteers and the Eagle County Board of Commissioners awarding a grant for the project. (The Board of Commissioners also approved a grant for the Vail Honeywagon’s community compost center.)
It will produce mostly leafy greens and fresh vegetables. Tomatoes will not be grown in the greenhouse due to bugs, Wolin-Brown said.
‘WAY OF LIFE’
Sustainability is important to Lovelace and the Salvation Army.
“It’s much more than how many pounds we’ve grown,” Lovelace said. “We also have a really robust education program that we offer for free to the community.”
Growing food locally not only helps the economy in Eagle County, but it also cuts back on the carbon footprint, supports local farmers and ranchers as well as connects people to their food sources.
“Sustainability is a way of life. It’s not something you do occasionally,” Lovelace said. “It’s a way of thinking about the whole and understanding how your actions and your choices are affecting your community, your planet and your family.”
Local growers are encouraged to drop off extra food to the Vail Valley Salvation Army in Avon, or fill the red coolers located at community gardens, and volunteers will deliver the food.
Local businesses and restaurants, including Vail Resorts, donated fresh food to the pantry at the end of the season that would have otherwise gone to waste.
“I often say to people when they say they’re going to throw something away, ‘Where’s away?’” Lovelace said.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.