All over the city, blackboards have faced major challenges due to the pandemic. Like other food companies, they have struggled to mitigate the effects of inflation and rising food costs. Meanwhile, unlike other years, the tablets saw a surge in demand as the pandemic caused more people to experience food instability.
Erin Pulling, CEO of the Food Bank of the Rockies, which serves the greater Denver area and most of northern Colorado, told Denver Voice that meeting that increased demand proved to be the organization’s greatest achievement and challenge over the past year have.
“Grocery banks and pantries have increased the distributions more than we could imagine,” said Pulling. “For the Food Bank of the Rockies, this means we spend a lot more on our grocery shopping. Since 2019 alone we have had to triple the money we spend on food. “
Food Bank of the Rockies said in its Annual report that it spent more than $ 1 million a month providing food to local communities through its more than 800 partner organizations in Colorado and Wyoming.
Meanwhile, the organization has seen a significant increase in the demand for food in its 53 county service area. Last year, demand rose 50% per month from the historical average, with some months exceeding 80%, the report said.
Still, the Food Bank of the Rockies distributed more than 110 million pounds of food or more than 89.5 million meals to those in need last year. This is despite Food costs up 6.7% over the past 12 months, according to the Denver Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The organization has also been able to expand its culturally-engaging food program across its service area, allowing recipients to connect with loved ones when they can’t be together, Pulling said. The program offers its customers regional products such as pinto beans, teff, masa and blue bird flour.
For Thai Nguyen, who runs Kaizen Food Rescue in Denver, a partner organization of the Food Bank of the Rockies, the culturally-engaging food program also helps increase healthy food options in communities that don’t have many nutritious options.
Kaizen is a free market that offers its clientele fresh ingredients, many of which are sourced from local farmers’ markets, Nguyen said. The food rescue team has also partnered with more than 20 local organizations to expand their distribution network.
Prior to the pandemic, Nguyen said Kaizen would typically care for between 150 and 200 families a day. During the pandemic, that number rose to 350-500 as many families suffered from food insecurity.
According to the latest Data According to the Census Bureau, more than 136,000 Colorado households report that they do not have enough to eat because they cannot afford it. These include more than 40,000 households with children.
This increased demand meant that Kaizen had to raise more funds to expand. The organization received a federal grant from Jefferson County under the CARES Act and has expanded its donor base, Nguyen said. However, the organization is looking for new ways to build capacity and sustainability as dollars dry up for federal pandemic aid.
At the same time, Nguyen said she wanted to focus on giving the Kaizen volunteers more time to rest. Kaizen’s network has grown significantly since the pandemic, but Nguyen said she wanted to take a more holistic approach to meet the needs of the coming year. Currently, Kaizen hosts an average of 23 food distribution events per month, with up to three events occurring on the same day.
“It was the community that gave their opinion and asked us to do more that really pushed us to make these changes,” said Nguyen. “And I don’t see that we’re going to be” normal “again anytime soon.”