Summit County’s human services officials see demand for food assistance, help with vaccine rollout
Nearly a year into the pandemic, the Summit County Human Services department continues to see high demand for its programs, though in some cases it’s down from a peak last summer.
At a town hall Friday, Feb. 12, department Director Joanne Sprouse presented on data related to the department’s programs. Since the beginning of the year, Sprouse said officials have seen a drop in demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
In July, the department saw a high of over 600 cases for the food assistance. In November and December, the number of average cases was around 450.
While the downward trend is promising, Sprouse said it doesn’t mean that people are out of the woods.
“It could change next week depending on what happens with our numbers, the public health orders and all of those things,” she said in an interview Thursday, Feb. 18. “But it is good news for right now.”
Sprouse added that demand for Meals on Wheels is remaining steady. In December, the Summit County Community and Senior Center delivered more than 1,000 meals.
Because SNAP has criteria for people to qualify for the food stamps program, it doesn’t reflect the food needs of the entire community. In addition to Meals on Wheels, the Family & Intercultural Resource Center is continuing to see high demand for its food pantry.
Since the pandemic began, the nonprofit has been serving more than 7,500 households through the food pantry, Executive Director Brianne Snow said at the town hall.
“Families can save an average of about $350 a month by using the food pantry each week, and that allows them to really stretch their budget to be able to afford housing and medical needs, child care and everything else,” Snow said.
Sprouse said the county’s Community Inclusion Group — which is a subset of the Emergency Planning Committee and consists of leaders at local nonprofits — is working to find ways for the department and the senior center to help with the vaccine rollout.
The senior center and human services department have been working to help the county’s access and functional needs population — which includes people with language barriers, disabilities, limited access to internet or phone services and a number of other situations — get vaccine appointments.
This includes doing cold calls to the 65-and-older population to inform them that they are eligible for the vaccine and help them sign up for Summit County Alerts or the new preregistration system.
The senior center also has been providing transportation for people who were able to schedule a vaccine but need help getting to their appointment. Sprouse said there aren’t any extra vaccines that are being prioritized for this group of people, and that they had to sign up for an appointment like anyone else.
Eventually, county officials hope to set up a system for vaccinating people who are homebound.
“A lot of the conversation is how do these nonprofits and these groups that work with these populations help us get information out?” she said.
At the town hall, Sprouse said there’s a number of programs that people can apply for to get help during the pandemic.
To apply for food, medical and child care assistance, people can visit ColoradoPEAK.secure.force.com, which will forward applications to the county’s human services department. People also can apply by visiting SummitCountyCo.gov/111/human-services.
However, the easiest way for a person to find out what services they can get is to call the family resource center at 970-262-3888.
“This isn’t something where we wake up one day and families are like, ’Oh, I’m back to work,’” Sprouse said. “It’s going to take a while to deal with getting people back on their feet.”
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