After Mammoth Lakes ski resort was forced to close early in the season and temporarily shut down to visitors, Mammoth Lakes Tourism knew that the income of many locals, from those working on the slopes to hotel employees, would be hard hit. In order to prevent an exodus of tourism workers, who would be needed once visitors return to the town, the tourism board took the initiative to start up a drive-through food bank in partnership with US Foods, and offered a hand to keep food on the table for those in their community who were in need. After setting up the food bank in the driving snow, an estimated 1,200-1,800 people showed up on that first day and with an estimated 80 - 85% unemployment in the town the numbers haven’t slowed. Over the last six weeks the food bank has helped serve 1200 - 1400 people each day that it operates.
"The local community has always played an integral part in making Mammoth Lakes Tourism who we are. With the closure to tourism and high unemployment hitting the town we knew we had to do something quickly to support those in need, or risk seeing our workers and community suffer." said John Urdi, Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director. "The MLT Food Bank has enabled us to care for local families, and give back to those who have been hardest hit. With the support of local businesses and generous donations from around the world, we've been able to feed more than 1,000 households". Urdi said.
They hope that once tourism picks back up again the town will be able to hire those who otherwise might have been forced to leave due to hardship, helping them get back into employment. Whilst exact timings will depend on the situation at that time, the tourism board's plan is to operate two weeks beyond when most of the town's tourism related businesses re-open, so people can work and get a paycheck before they close the service.
In addition to using money the tourism board had in reserve (it's committed $100,000 to date to fund the operations), the team have seen nearly $175,000 in cash donations from around the world to support their efforts. Mammoth Lake Tourism employees and many community volunteers are now working six days on the logistics of running a free twice daily service, three times a week. Volunteers are key to the food bank's success - the tourism board has seen more than 150 different volunteers and more than 2,000 hours of service. With food costs running at between $7,500 - $10,000 each day of operation, the team is working with support from local businesses, such as restaurants and supermarkets, as well as Mammoth Mountain, in order to make this happen.