Tanya Gurule is puzzled that she is having a hard time giving away free food.

As program manager for Everyday Eats, it is her job to get food to Puebloans over 60. The basics are intended to help stretch the food budget for older residents of the county who make $1,473 a month or less.

For some reason, the number of participants has dropped from 2,063 a month in 2021 to 1,229 last month.

“That’s 60% fewer participants,” Gurule said. “I can’t understand why we are not getting participants.”

She said extra food pantries have popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, “but this is the only one specific to seniors.”

If the number of older, low-income Puebloans using the program continues to drop, it could be stopped altogether, Gurule said.

“People will tell me, ‘Give it to someone who really needs it,’ but if we don’t have participants to keep it going it’s going to be gone,” she said.

“The state has already cut us down from 1,850 (food packages) to 1,620,” as demand has dropped, she said.

Volunteer Mark Holmes loads boxes of food into the car of a senior as part of Pueblo County's commodities distribution program on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Volunteer Mark Holmes loads boxes of food into the car of a senior as part of Pueblo County’s commodities distribution program on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Drive-through offers contactless service

A drive-through at the 2631 E. Fourth Street warehouse provides safe, contactless service for people picking up food through the Pueblo County-run program.

“They can schedule a time and don’t have to wait. We will roll out the food and put it in their trunk, so it is now more user-friendly,” Gurule explained.

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The program offers staple items such as juice, canned fruits and vegetables, grains and more. Everyday Eats foods are designed to supplement what the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides.

“I will give you the noodles, tomato sauce and cheese and then you can get the salad and meats you need to go with that,” Gurule explained.

Gairy Hainer, volunteer, unloads bags of whole wheat flour for Pueblo County's commodities distribution program for seniors on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Gairy Hainer, volunteer, unloads bags of whole wheat flour for Pueblo County’s commodities distribution program for seniors on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Delivery available at group settings

Limited resources prevent personal delivery to each home but the Everyday Eats volunteers can deliver food boxes to group living settings.

Gurule, has been helping Pueblo County with the distribution for seven years and the county has been participating in the program for more than 25 years.

“We have had a lot of loss with people moving into nursing homes or because of COVID, but I feel like we are just being forgotten,” Gurule said.

Volunteer Nick Roque loads up boxes of food and other commodities to be distributed to seniors through Pueblo County on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Volunteer Nick Roque loads up boxes of food and other commodities to be distributed to seniors through Pueblo County on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Easy options to sign up

More information about the program, including how to sign up, is available by calling 719-583-6199 or by visiting county.pueblo.org/human-services/everyday-eats.

Participants also can text the word FOOD to 1-877-644-3663. Those who have a smartphone can use their phone’s camera to scan a QR code, which is available on the county’s website.

Once they have signed up, clients can easily reorder food each month at pueblo.mobilizecomms.com/client-search.

Volunteer Phyllis Chavez unloads cans of beef stew as part of Pueblo County's commodities distribution program for seniors on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Volunteer Phyllis Chavez unloads cans of beef stew as part of Pueblo County’s commodities distribution program for seniors on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

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Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps.

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Everyday Eats has plenty of food for Puebloans older than 60

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