Free food Friday at the Jackson Cupboard

Jamie Nickel browses produce offered at the Jackson Cupboard’s Free Food Friday, a weekly event.

The One22 Resource Center is adding the Jackson Cupboard to its stock of community safety net offerings by merging with the local food pantry.

Eagle Scout Willi Brooks and other Scouts started the food pantry in 2001. Today the Jackson Cupboard operates in the St. John’s Episcopal Church basement, as does One22, a social services nonprofit that provides rent assistance, interpreters and scholarships, among other services.

The merger has been in the works for a couple of months, One22 Executive Director Sharel Lund said, in part because of their proximity on the St. John’s campus and in part due to One22’s response to the economic destruction wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We really had to look at what we were going to be most concerned about, and it was food and shelter,” Lund said.

At the beginning of the pandemic response, One22 threw its fundraising might into financial assistance, helping with all manner of expenses, including food.

“We probably gave out $200,000 worth of grocery store gift cards to Albertsons and Smith’s,” Lund said.

At the same time, nonprofits addressing food insecurity like the Jackson Cupboard saw an influx in clients needing help obtaining groceries. The increased economic pressure on Teton County residents led Lund and the boards of both nonprofits to look for better ways to ensure people had everything they needed.

A recent One22 survey found that just 26% of its housing assistance clients also got food through organizations like the Cupboard. Though not all people who come to One22 for help face food insecurity, Lund said, after months of handing out the grocery store gift cards “it’s very clear that it’s an important need that our clients have.”

Merging with the Cupboard allows One22 to better fill that need, and it can encourage clients to seek food assistance when they otherwise might not. That sort of efficiency goes both ways, so with the Cupboard under its umbrella One22 can reach out to people who might use the food pantry but aren’t aware of the other resources available.

For right now, not much will change with the Cupboard’s operation. To “continue its legacy,” Lund said, the name won’t change.

Personnel-wise, the Cupboard was in a transition after Operations Director Rachel Daluge left at the beginning of the summer. Amy Brooks, a board member at the Cupboard and One22 employee, has taken a furlough from her regular job to cover the Cupboard’s day-to-day operations.

Operationally, Lund said she and Brooks are looking ahead to the winter, when COVID-19 precautions will take on a different hue as cold weather pushes people inside.

“That will be what inspires the changes that we make to help more people get access to food in a COVID-appropriate way,” Lund said.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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