Aspen’s needy now have a food pantry |

Aspen’s needy now have a food pantry

While popular perception has everyone in Aspen eating fancy food and drinking classy wine, the reality is lots of people are struggling to get enough to eat.

Two charitable organizations have joined a team of volunteers to start a food pantry in Aspen this month to help Pitkin County residents hit hardest by the recession.

The Aspen Community Foundation took the initiative to start the Aspen food pantry. It’s being operated under the umbrella of Lift-Up, which has organized food pantries in Garfield County for years. The Aspen office will be staffed by a group of volunteers who call themselves the Baguettes.

Organizers acknowledged that Aspen’s need for a food pantry doesn’t jell with the town’s image.

“People in Rifle might say, ‘A food pantry in Aspen? You’ve got to be kidding me,'” said Mike Powell, executive director of Lift-Up. He would have thought that too, before investigating the need.

“We’re just trying to [determine] if this need is as great is it appears,” Powell said.

Lynda Palevsky of Snowmass Village said she read about the soaring demand for food from Lift-Up’s pantry in Carbondale this spring and started investigating the need in Pitkin County. She learned from officials at the Aspen Community Foundation that they wanted to help launch a food pantry in Aspen. Palevsky and nine other women volunteered their services.

“We told the Community Foundation, ‘You tell us what you need and we’ll do it,'” Palevsky said.

The idea for the pantry was born, and the female volunteers dubbed themselves the Baguettes. The name fits, Palevsky said, because they bag food, bread is a basic food item and “we hope to raise a lot of dough.”

The Aspen pantry opened two weeks ago, although the effort has been low-key until now because organizers wanted to get established before facing a big demand. The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 465 N. Mill St., behind Aspen Velo bike shop.

Palevsky said the pantry is distributing canned and non-perishable food.

“This is food to tide them over. This isn’t gourmet food,” she said.

She has little doubt there will be a strong demand for help from the pantry. The caseload for Pitkin County health and human services was up 58 percent in April 2009 compared to the same month in 2008. There was a 28 percent increase in the requests for food stamps by county residents from January through April compared to the same period the prior year. Food from the pantry is available to residents from Aspen to Basalt.

The space in the North Mill Station building was donated to Lift-Up Aspen by the owner, North Mill Street Investors, according to Palevsky. Powell said the pantry has a six-month lease. The space is for rent so it might not be available past the end of the year. Hopefully, said both Palevsky and Powell, the demand will ease by then.

Palevsky said volunteers are need to help staff the pantry, and food and contributions are always welcome. Canned goods and non-perishable foods can be take to the pantry during the hours it is open. Donors can call the pantry at 544-2009 between 10 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays if they are uncertain what kind of food is needed. And, of course, financial contributions are always welcomed. Prospective volunteers can also call the pantry.

A food drive party – complete with wine and cheese – will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, June 26, at the Red Brick building in Aspen. The event will feature music by the group Slightly White. Participants are asked to donate food or cash.

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