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Food bank gears up for holiday boxes

Modified: Friday, Nov 9th, 2012

Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley director Mel Huss stands with a truckload of donated potatoes from Paul New's farm in Mosca.

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Thanksgiving is almost here, and the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley (FBNSLV) is almost ready to feed 600 families the traditional holiday meal.

In under two weeks, the FBNSLV hopes to raise $6,000 and attract all the frozen turkeys it can to meet the Valley’s need for holiday food boxes. Last year, a struggling bank account nearly stopped the project dead in its tracks, but a community call to action turned up roughly $13,000 for the FBNSLV’s first 100 percent grassroots food drive project.

FBNSLV director Mel Huss said she hopes some of last year’s magic will carry over to make the 18th annual holiday food box tradition one to remember.

“We have money to put food on our shelves, but we are back at Thanksgiving and without much for the boxes,” Huss said in an interview on Friday. “I really do believe there is a dignity and there is an honor in the Thanksgiving holiday, spending it with family and having a wonderful meal that you can cook with your family. I believe wholeheartedly in the magic that is Thanksgiving.”

She said the FBNSLV has raised $6,184 to date that will directly fund about 300 holiday food boxes. This year, the cost of a box is $20.36, which is down $2.24 from 2011 because Huss has formed partnerships with Wal Mart, City Market and Atencio’s to locate the lowest food prices.

“We try to find the best prices possible and make sure that we are supporting our businesses, but we are also ensuring that we can get a great deal,” Huss said. “This is the time when the community really responds to the need. It can be a rough season, but people see that we are stewards of this money. This is what we are concentrating on.”

In addition to the grocery stores, she said the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center in Alamosa and the Colorado Springs-based Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado have joined forces with the FBNSLV to bring turkeys to Valley residents.

“There have been a lot of partnerships that have happened,” Huss said. “The SLVRMC is doing a Take A Turkey to Work Day. We are looking to get turkeys specifically from there because turkeys are the most expensive item. They make up half of the cost.”

One surprise donation came from the defunct San Luis Chamber of Commerce in Costilla County, she said. After it was realized that there were $1,300 unused dollars in a forgotten bank account, the former chamber board decided the best place the money could go is to the people of the Valley.

“The donation came in on Halloween,” Huss said. “It was one of our larger donations and a major donation. These stories always happen. There is support from everywhere. The reach of this Valley is really wide.”

She added that since the FBNSLV is accepting payments through PayPal, donations are also coming from all corners of the country.

“We have people donating from Chicago, from San Diego and from Ohio,” Huss said. “Some of these people have never stepped into the Valley. They are just putting their support into this project. That means a lot.”

The local food drives are not going unnoticed, she stressed. Today, in conjunction with the appearance of the nation’s capitol Christmas tree, the Alamosa Rotary Club will be conducting a food drive to fill the holiday food boxes. Rotary members will be located on Main Street and San Juan Avenue accepting cash donations and food items including stuffing, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, green beans, pie crusts and, of course, turkeys.

The FBNSLV plans to distribute the boxes on Saturday, Nov. 17 at the old Alamosa County shop located on Seventeenth Street.

The FBNSLV is comprised of 13 food banks located throughout the region. In the Alamosa Food Bank, the hub of the network, donations of perishable food are received on a regular basis from stores including Wal-Mart, City Market and Safeway. These donations, along with the generous support of other individuals and organizations, account for a large portion of the food distributed throughout the year.

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