s the COVID-19 pandemic settles in, the demand for basic necessities only grows.
Bob Hughes, Executive Director of Inyo-Mono Advocates for Community Action (IMACA), said demand for food diostribution has tripled since the pandemic began.
IMACA is now delivering food to one thousand families in Inyo and Mono counties, from Tecopa to Walker.
Pre-corona shutdowna, it might serve 300 families out of its warehouse on East South Street in Bishop.
Sherry O’Connell of the Salvation Army says demand for the Army’s food pantry has doubled from 250 to 500 patrons per month.
And Michael Ledesma, a board member for Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) who does all the ordering for MLT’s food bank (which started operating March 23) says they’re seeing 400 cars per day, three days per week.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism is spending between $7,000 and $10,000 per service day on food.
All three organizations accept donations of food, cash … O’Connell says folks have donated masks for Salvation Army volunteers.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism has reported receiving $78,000 in private donations. A single donor gave $25,000.
IMACA recently received a massive donation from the LDS Church, which sent a 53’ semi-tractor trailer from Salt Lake City with enough food to feed 1,400 people a day for five days.
That truck arrived this past Monday. Another truck is scheduled to arrive in the coming week.
Volunteerism has also been very strong. MLT has had more than 120 volunteers donate 1,200 hours. The Salvation army has seen its volunteer roster swell from five or six to about 20, critical because many of the army’s regular volunteers are senior citizens who can’t do so right now because they are an at-risk population.
As the Salvation Army has temporarily shut down its operations in Mammoth, the MLT food bank has picked up the slack in a hospitality-focused community whose unemployment rate must be 75% or higher.
MLT has kept a few stats (it quizzes its clients on the honor system) regarding size of households and the occupations of the people it is serving.
37% are self-described employees of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. 33% work in housekeeping – the largest labor subset. Another 25% say they work in restaurants.
MLT has announced tentative plans to run its food bank until June 1.
Ledesma, who owns Gomez Restaurant and Tequileria in the Village at Mammoth, praised the many partners who’ve made MLT’s food bank possible, from US Foods, which has supplied food at cost, to Vons, which has provided certain items at cost which US Foods cannot, to Barbara Bartlett of Barbwire Beef, who’s donated 600 pounds of grass-fed beef, and Primal Kitchen Foods (whose parent company is Kraft-Heinz), which donated two pallets ($20,000).
*Primal’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Rick Wallace is a former business partner of Ledesma’s. Connections help!
And don’t forget Paul and Kathleen Rudder, who are donating the bank’s 2,000-feet of commercial space at The Promenade.
The overarching goal of the food bank is elegantly simple: keep people in town so Mammoth has the workforce it needs on-hand when the economy reboots.
IMACA’s Bob Hughes never imagined that operating a food bank would consume his life the way it has since he assumed the Directorship in December.
He was a longtime bank executive (three decades) before taking a “gap year” last year to work for Americorps.
His permanent residence is in Springville, California on Highway 190 along the Tule River. He commutes home on the weekends.
During the week, he literally lives at the Cottonwood Plaza.
As the immediate crisis has morphed into a general slog, Hughes says he’s encouraging the families he’s serving to apply for CalFresh (the state version of Food Stamps).
That way, folks will be issued a debit card and can buy what they want versus simply getting what they get.
In addition to food, housing (homelessness) remain a big focus of IMACA.
O’Connell has run the local branch of the Salvation Army for the past four years.
She attended the Salvation Army College for Officer Training in Rancho Palos Verdes before getting her first assignment in Bishop.
It appears Bishop will be her first and last assignment.
It’s a complicated story.
When one attends Salvation Army College, one of the perks/beenfits/results is that you become an ordained minister.
She gets to Bishop and meets her husband at church. He was a traveling nurse working at NIH at the time.
The Salvation Army mandates that an officer can only stay an officer if the officer marries a fellow officer.
O’Connell had to step down as a Salvation Army officer (Lieutenant) to marry husband Michael, who now works as a Nursing Supervisor at Mammoth Hospital. Her job title is now Service Center Coordinator.
While the Salvation Army has suspended operations in Mammoth for now, it has stepped in for the Methodist Church, which can no longer operate its soup kitchen. The Salvation army has been handing out bag lunches to whomever wants one on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
As Ledesma has observed, getting Mammoth’s food bank up-and-running has brought out the best in the community. “I’ve made so many new friends,” he said. “And I’ve seen so many incredible gestures. One hispanic lady gave us $5 … young people living in their cars expressing gratitude … and as we get into this, we’re seeing more and different people. Last Friday, 35-40% of the cars – we hadn’t seen them before.”