LIFT-UP humanitarian program wants to open new food storage facility in West Glenwood
A regional humanitarian needs program that feeds thousands of food insecure locals a year is currently proposing to open a new facility in West Glenwood.
LIFT-UP, serving Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, requested $200,000 from the Garfield County Commission on Monday to support the $2 million project. The nonprofit aims to create a new food distribution center in an existing warehouse at 100 Midland Avenue.
Garfield County commissioners didn’t agree to giving the full amount and instead voted 2-1 to allocate $100,000 toward the project. Commission Chair John Martin voted against the allocation.
“I support you guys from the very creation of LIFT-UP,” Martin said. “You have contributed numerous things from food to money. But what it amounts to is that the county is also looking at space — sheriff’s office, health department, social services, administration, courts and elections and others.
“And we’re in the millions of dollars there, and this whittles away at that particular one.”
LIFT-UP right now has six food pantries and another nine drive-through distribution sites from Parachute to Aspen. These sites served more than 48,000 guests in 2022 alone, county documents show.
Numbers also show Garfield County leading Pitkin and Eagle in users. Pitkin and Eagle counties accounted for 20% of all people served by LIFT-UP last year, while the remaining 80% were Garfield County residents.
LIFT-UP Executive Director Ivan Jackson told commissioners that food is first supplied to a storage facility in Parachute, which is then distributed via box trucks to its various dissemination sites throughout the region. By opening a new warehouse in Glenwood, it would not only better centralize distribution routes, it would answer a growing need for food assistance, Jackson said.
One in six Colorado children are currently food insecure, LIFT-UP data shows.
“We’ve seen a continual rise over the last year, and we at LIFT-UP try to get ahead of that,” Jackson said. “We need to have more food in our warehouse so we can provide it with this continued increase.”
Jackson said the proposed location is ideal since it’s already equipped with loading docks for distribution trucks and that it’s just off Interstate 70 and close to Colorado Highway 82.
LIFT-UP Director Sheila Maurer said that its newest proposal alighns with its three-year strategic plan. This includes making every pantry look like an actual market, with a variety of fresh fruits, meats and dairy products, she said.
“Our facility would allow us to increase our total warehouse capacity to hold 180 days of shelf-to-table food. We currently have a goal of 90 days at our Parachute facility,” she said. “We’re currently trying to expand that.
“Increased warehouses will allow for locally-sourced fresh fruits and vegetables and meat and dairy. We will be able to increase their refrigeration and frozen-storage capacities.”
In addition to bolstering capacity, a new warehouse in West Glenwood would allow LIFT-UP to have another Extended Table location, restructure its Parachute warehouse while it reopens its thrift store in that location and more, county documents show. The Parachute thrift store was converted into a LIFT-UP warehouse at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020.
The reason why Commissioner Mike Samson supported the $100,000 allocation is because “times are rough, and I fear they’re going to get rougher,” he said.
“People are struggling,” he said. “They’re just struggling.”
Samson, however, also expressed hesitation toward giving any further funds to LIFT-UP in the future.
“There’s so many needs and there’s so many ones by so many other organizations,” Samson said. “We can’t give everybody everything like we have in the past.”
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky echoed Samson’s sentiment.
“If there were better times for Garfield County, when we had a really strong oil and gas economy, I think we could go for a higher amount,” Jankovsky said.
LIFT-UP’s purchase of the proposed facility is $1.7 million, not including estimated renovation, overhead and contingency costs. As LIFT-UP also seeks private donations, the organization hopes to have the new West Glenwood facility operational by January 2024.
“When rent or utilities or gas or food prices go up, our lines get longer,” Maurer said. “So our guests have to choose between paying bills or buying food.”
Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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