DENVER – As food banks across Colorado report an increase in need, the state is providing $14 million in funding for the Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program.
Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, the administrative organization that helps manage the grant program, will help distribute $4 million of the funding to eligible Colorado food pantries.
“So we look at everything from the application... we also provide technical assistance to all of the grantees with our amazing team of regional food coordinators through Hunger Free Colorado. And our organization, the Blueprint, is committed to equity. So we value co-creating these solutions and co-creating this whole application process with those that are receiving funding that know what is best and needed for their communities in Colorado,” said Dana Wood, Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger Community investment manager. “I just spoke with a food pantry earlier this morning that's located here on the Western Slope…they had said that their monthly budget has increased exponentially.”
That food bank was Clifton Christian Church Food Bank in Mesa County.
“The need is higher than it was during the pandemic. Our numbers are increasingly getting larger day by day. We’re seeing on average about 4,500 individuals in a month,” said Jackie Feaster, executive director of Clifton Christian Church Food Bank. “We just try to hustle any and every opportunity to find funding and give a voice to hunger.”
Clifton Christian Church Food Bank is open twice during the work week and one Saturday a month.
“I think people are very confused when it comes to what hunger means. There’s another side to hunger that isn’t explored as much — it’s the working poor. It’s families that just can’t make it with the cost of food. A husband and wife both have jobs, they have a home, they have vehicles, they have children, and they can’t make it,” Feaster said.
Food Bank of the Rockies, which serves as a distributor of food to food pantries, said it's trying to serve more families with fewer donations.
“The need has never been greater, and we've seen a bit of a decrease in our donated food. So we're compensating with purchased food,” said Kelly Green, vice president of operations for Food Bank of the Rockies. “We are purchasing a lot of produce so we can get fresh food, mangoes, cucumbers. We are purchasing a lot of just regular dry goods. We're purchasing a lot of culturally responsive foods, like dry beans. And we are purchasing a lot of proteins, milk and dairy and things like that.”
Green said the food bank has received other grants from the state, allowing the food bank to purchase more food and serve more communities.
“We've been really fortunate to receive some monies from the state this year. We were trying to figure out what we're going to do to buy at the same levels that we have bought in previous years and still be effective,” Green said. “The money that we've gotten from the state is allowing us to increase those purchasing levels and then offer that food to the pantries in response to this tremendous need.”
Green said regardless of the mounting challenges, the food bank and its pantry partners are determined to keep their pantries full and all Colorado families fed.
To learn more about the Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program, click here.