The Colorado Meals Pantry Help Grant Program spent $ 5.6 million in the course of the pandemic

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The Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program, a partnership of the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Department of Agriculture Colorado Proud, has provided $ 5.6 million to 180 food banks and pantries across the state since last July. Now the funds for the grants should be used up at the end of June.

MetroCaring, an anti-hunger organization based in Denver and a beneficiary of the program, saw demand for assistance increase 300 percent during the pandemic. “Before COVID, we had an average of just over 2,000 families per month. From March 2020 until today we see an average of over 7,000 families per month, ”says Sheena A. Kadi, communications director for the organization.

The Food Pantry Assistance Grant program made $ 6,000 to MetroCaring in August, $ 5,700 in October, and $ 125,000 in January after the program received additional government funding. These funds helped MetroCaring build relationships with various Colorado food manufacturers such as Freshly Milled LLC for flour and Barber’s Foods for beans and meat. It also connected MetroCaring to the East Denver Food Hub, which helped source beans, eggs, mushrooms, oil and various other products from Colorado, explains Tommy Crosby, the group’s food access manager.

The CDHS-CDA partnership precedes the pandemic, but funding increased last summer after Colorado law passed House Bill 20-1422, which earmarked $ 600,000 to address increased food aid needs. This money should also help the food producers in the state. “More than $ 372,000, or at least 62 percent of the US dollar, has been spent on it [the] Colorado Proud brand or goods grown, raised or manufactured in Colorado, ”reads the recently published final report of the Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program.

Kathy Underhill, the CDHS food distribution program manager, says the grant program was originally designed to “combine famine relief and local agriculture.” The report finds that Colorado has 38,000 farms that provide more than 195,000 jobs and contribute more than $ 47 billion to the state’s economy annually.

But these farms also scored a hit.

Tommy Crosby, the food access manager, says the funds have enabled them to create further connections with various local producers.

Tommy Crosby, the food access manager, says the funds have enabled them to create further connections with various local producers.

Courtesy Metro Caring

In its Business Economic Outlook 2021, the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business estimates that Colorado’s net income fell to $ 1.7 billion in 2020. This is a $ 200 million decrease from 2019 due to pandemic and environmental factors. Government programs make up 28 percent of that income, estimates CU Boulder; The Food Pantry Assistance Grant program is just one of those government programs.

And now MetroCaring’s most recent funding from the program is almost gone. “Without additional sources of funding, we will have to rely on donations to our general fund to fill this gap,” says Kadi. While the organization will continue to receive donations from community partners like Whole Foods, it will not be able to buy as many staples from local and statewide manufacturers even if demand stays high, she explains.

While Colorado’s unemployment rate is falling – the tentative March rate was 6.4 percent, down from 12.1 percent in April 2020 – there is still a delay between looking for a job and restoring financial security, according to Underhill. The recovery depends on “how much debt people have incurred and how long it will take people to finish,” she says, expecting Colorado to continue to have increased needs for at least the next twelve months.

According to Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, it took nearly ten years after the Great Recession for food insecurity to return to pre-recession levels. And while the data shows that food insecurity across the country has remained lower than originally thought over the past year, “without the federal and state response and the generosity of the private sector … more people would have gotten into trouble.”

Learn more at metrocaring.org and hungerfreecolorado.org.

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Claire Duncombe is a journalist, photographer, multimedia storyteller and musician. She is a graduate of CU Denver and a proud Philadelphia native.

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