Food Bank Grows in Clientele, Contributions Dwindle

Mary Ellen Huss
Alamosa Food Bank


Although my undergraduate degree is in Communications and I somehow survived college without taking a statistics class, I have become obsessed with numbers. As a former volunteer in 2009-2010 at the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley, I would run our intake tool to figure out how many families each week came into the Alamosa Food Bank, how many people were impacted by this, and how each week compared to the weeks or the months before.
Now, as the Director of the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley, I get paid to obsess over numbers. Happily, each month, I run statistics in order to see our reach and impact in the community. The past few months, as I tallied up Excel sheets, my heart dropped a little on this task to see that a record number of households had come through the doors of the Food Banks in the 21 days we were open in 2012.
The Alamosa Food Bank alone had 854 households come through to pick up non-perishables in the month of January. The Alamosa Food Bank served 666 households in January 2011; 283 in January 2010; 475 in January 2009 and 186 in January 2008.
Our staff doesn’t interrogate clients for the reasons why they walk through our doors. For that reason, I can certainly speculate on the growth in clients–underemployment, the country wide recession hitting the Valley, a better quality of food available on our shelves between donations from local stores, or maybe just a greater sense of comfort in walking through our doors. Of course, our Food Bank Network exists for all of those reasons and the traditional “emergency” need. I had the chance to be at the front desk checking in clients in January and a woman who had received food just the week before stopped in just to say thank you.
Using only the Alamosa numbers, it’s easy to see our client growth. We served four times the amount of clients in January 2012 than we did in January 2008 but our food purchasing power has not quadrupled. While we have staff trying to secure grants to be able to purchase food, we do not have the financial capacity if we do end up serving 800+ households every month in 2012.
So our challenge this year is to grow our donor base. While we have plenty of people who support the Food Bank Network already and we are incredibly grateful for financial support and food drives that exist, I was crunching numbers a few days ago and came up with the most ideal dream. According to the 2000 Census, there are 5467 households in Alamosa County. If half of those households added one extra can to their shopping carts to donate to local food banks each month (twelve cans throughout the course of a year), there would be 32,802 extra cans in the Food Bank Network by the end of the year. If half of the 17,328 households in the Valley purchased one can each month to donate, there would be 103,968 cans brought into the Food Bank Network.
Many of our most popular canned good items cost less than a dollar for purchase at the grocery store. For a small investment of only $12 dollars over the course of the year by half of the households in the Valley, the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley could distribute $1.2 million dollars of product. This could allow the Food Bank Network to provide shelf stable goods whenever people have the need as opposed to limiting visits and providing fewer items. Also, current grant funding could be freed up to source produce and fresh items, instead of the usual non-perishables that we have on our shelves.
So what does a twelve-can donation look like for a family to donate? If it equaled $12, that might be six plain coffees or the cost of an annual bank fee. $12 is one movie ticket and a Raisinettes at the local theater.
A small donation by a large enough population could be the answer to the growth in our clientele. Together we could exceed the current need of the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley. Grow the stock of your local food bank, even if you don’t live in the Valley. Add one can, once a month to your grocery trip and encourage your friends, family and neighbors to do the same thing. is powered by WordPress µ | Spam prevention powered by Akismet