One-year-old Kade Wren and 6-year-old Olivia Caballero hand-picked their lunches Tuesday, both choosing a mashed potato frittata to go with a bag of baby carrots and a Rice Krispies treat. The older one also chose apple slices, while the younger went for an orange.
The brown-bag offering, handed out by Hole Food Rescue, is helping families like Jenyka Tapia and Justin Welcome make ends meet while they’re out of work. Both are barbers at Teton Barber Shop, and while Tapia has a second job in Afton providing a little income, money is scarce.
“There’s almost nothing coming in for either one of us,” Tapia said.
Hole Food Rescue’s lunch program is one of a network of food offerings popping up in Teton County to support families struggling to put food on the table — and it’s been well-received, as evidenced by a stream of minivans, SUVs and even a few bikes rolling through the Jackson Hole High School parking lot Tuesday morning. The temporary lunch station, open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday through spring break, handed out 61 lunches on Monday and 72 on Tuesday.
“With everything that’s happening it’s really helpful to have the food,” Tapia said. “Just being able to go outside and pick up lunch is really nice.”
Lori Chavez echoed the sentiment when she pulled up with her kids, Mark Anthony, Acacia and Mia.
“Me and my children have been staying home. Everyday it’s so exciting for them.”
Her husband, Mark, still has work building the new bridge in Hoback, but she is unsure if that will last.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, so we’re trying to reserve,” she said. “Whatever I was going to make for lunch I can make for dinner.”
Much of the food being served is rescued rations from restaurants that closed entirely or scaled down operations; it’s not the nonprofit’s usual source, grocery stores, which have been depleted by worried shoppers.
“We are not rescuing really anything from the grocery stores,” Cooley said.
The nonprofit even picked up chef Jack Glassburner and hired him in a full-time position after he lost his job at Rations, the Southern fusion restaurant at Basecamp in Wilson.
“We are agile,” Hole Food Rescue director of programs and partnerships Hannah Cooley said. While the nonprofit typically focuses on reducing food waste in Teton County, it has shifted to feeding those thrown into financial insecurity. “At this point feeding food-insecure individuals is a more important aspect of our mission so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
To fill the anticipated needs of the community the organization will start purchasing bulk food, as will Jackson Cupboard, a food pantry that has also been on the front lines of getting food to the community.
As of now, the cupboard is providing bags of staples, produce and meat, but supplies are admittedly running low. Rachel Deluge, the organization’s operations director, said Jackson Hole Grocer will allow the nonprofit to buy wholesale food through its accounts, which will allow the cupboard to continue providing groceries during the crisis.
“Our numbers have doubled from 15 to 20 a day to 30 to 40 a day,” Deluge said. “We’re ordering as many cases as we can.”
But while they’re looking for more supplies, both organizations have more volunteers than they know what to do with.
“We’re pretty much full for the next two weeks,” Cooley said.