Colorado Springs’ oldest soup kitchen is expanding and opening a food pantry Monday at its downtown campus for residents struggling to make ends meet amid the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted lives and the local economy..
“Many of the households we serve are experiencing food insecurity in addition to crises around housing, employment and access to health care,” said Lorri Orwig, senior vice president of operations for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, which operates the Marian House Kitchen.
Along with serving free hot meals daily for homeless and low-income people, the Marian House provides emergency financial assistance to struggling residents to pay rent, utilities and transportation, help obtaining a birth certificate, residency status and other documentation, aid with employment, access to medical care and other needs.
The addition of the new food pantry, called Marian House Marketplace, will enable the organization to “address all of these areas in a more meaningful way, while case managers work alongside clients to create a plan for stability,” Orwig said.
Starting Monday, the pantry, which is inside the soup kitchen’s dining hall at 14 W. Bijou St., will be open from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Families and individuals seeking food must make a reservation to shop at the pantry by calling 866-6288 or emailing Pantry@CCharitiesCC.org.
To observe social distancing, one household will be scheduled at a time.
Also, recipients must have a refrigerator at home to receive food boxes, which include dairy products, fresh and frozen meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nonperishable items, such as cereal and grains.
“Everything comes cold, frozen or shelf-ready,” Orwig said.
Donations from community businesses, such as Costco, 7-11 and Safeway, along with community contributions, will stock the pantry.
“It’s not your traditional pantry where you’ll be handed a bag of something and that’s all you get,” Orwig said.
Staff will work with clients to provide other services, she said, and make the experience a one-stop shop.
The need for food assistance remains high in El Paso County, said Joanna Wise, spokeswoman for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, which supplies 48 pantries countywide. It also has provided food to the Marian House Kitchen since it opened in 1985.
The organization is distributing about 50% more food than it was pre-pandemic, Wise said.
“The main, and most efficient way we are able to get food onto tables of our neighbors in need is by working closely with our network of partner food pantries and meal sites, which includes Marian House Kitchen,” she said.
Food insecurity increased from 10.9% to 14.4% last year in El Paso County due to the pandemic, according to Feeding America, a national organization with a network of 200 food banks.
Among children, food insecurity is estimated to have increased from 14.4% to 21% locally.
The model at the Marian House “provides dignity to neighbors by letting them shop for what they want,” Wise said.
Last year’s closure of two local social service agencies, Ecumenical Social Ministries and REACH Pikes Peak decreased the availability of food pantries in the downtown area. The new pantry, which has the capability of providing food to 100 households per month, should help fill the gap, officials said.
Two federal programs that the Marian House also provides food for — the senior food box program and the emergency food assistance program — will continue. Recipients of those programs also will be able to use the new food pantry because the items are different, Orwig said.
Food donations for the pantry can be dropped off 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 14 W. Bijou St. Cash donations can be made online at CCharitiesCC.org, or mailed to 228 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903.
To volunteer, call Doug Rouse, 866-6286.
This content was originally published here.