As prices for everything from rent to gas to groceries continue to rise due to skyrocketing inflation, community organizations such as food banks and pantries, as well as individuals they serve, are faced with increasingly dire situations.
For instance, Rocky Mountain Food Bank– which distributes groceries to food pantries, nonprofits and people in need through various programs in Colorado and Wyoming – now spends more than $1.3 million on food each month. That’s more than triple what she was spending in 2019, says Adita Desai, a spokesperson for the food bank. Inflation is responsible for some of this increase, but there are also other factors at play. Freight and shipping costs are also higher, largely due to ongoing supply chain issues. ‘supply. These issues also affect manufacturers, who are the food bank’s main source of large-scale donations. Overall, dues are down in all areas.
Meanwhile, the need for food aid is still higher than pre-COVID levels in the organization’s service area due to inflation and the ongoing pandemic, Desai said. Many of the more than 600 food pantries and nonprofits the Rockies Food Bank works with in Colorado have seen an increase in people requesting food assistance. Overall, the Rocky Mountain Food Bank is distributing 34% more food than before the pandemic. People are also growing increasingly worried as prices continue to rise – some are already choosing to cut back on more expensive groceries, like meat. “People are nervous again, just like when the COVID-19 pandemic started,” says Kate Budd, Rocky Mountain Food Bank mobile pantry representative. “There is still a lot of uncertainty with access to food.”
The food bank is doing what it can to get by, ie picking up and delivering donations as soon as they are available; working with food banks across the country to take advantage of their overstocked items; and proactively purchasing larger quantities to account for shortages or delivery delays, among other adaptations. “We continue to purchase nutritious, fresh, culturally appropriate items needed and desired by our community, regardless of cost,” says Desai.
The situation is similar to Outreach United Resource Center (OUR Center), a Longmont-based non-profit organization that offers a wide range of services and programs to support those in need throughout the St. Vrain Valley, including rental and utility assistance, childcare children, financial skills classes, job referrals, and a community closet, among others. It also serves meals at its community cafe and offers groceries, clothing, and personal care items at its community market.
Donations are dwindling, but community needs are growing, says Marc Cowell, executive director of OUR Center. Every week, between 10 and 15 new families, on average, come to OUR center for the very first time, he says. Some people move in with their extended family because they cannot afford rent, or leave the area altogether because they simply cannot see a future here due to the high cost of living. other households max out their credit cards just to meet basic needs and pay bills. “At the beginning of the year, many of these families had a very tight family budget and were making it work,” says Cowell. “Now, due to the rapidly rising cost of living in our community, these families are faced with very difficult decisions such as skipping meals to save enough money to pay for gas to get to work. ”
To keep up with demand, OUR Center purchases between $3,000 and $5,000 worth of food and other items for its programs each month, which is an “unprecedented” level of spending, Cowell says. Like many Front Range employers, OUR Center is also struggling to offer wage increases so its employees can keep pace with the rising cost of living caused by inflation, Cowell says. “I have a talented team that is very committed to our mission and helping our community,” he says. “However, this passion and dedication can only go so far. If trends continue, we will soon fall behind and risk losing some incredible team members.”
Although he tries to be optimistic, Cowell also needs to take a longer term view of rising costs and, unfortunately, things are not looking good. “As the needs of the community continue to grow, our struggles to meet that need will inevitably grow,” he says. “I fear that our struggle to meet the needs of the community will only get worse. I see no light at the end of the tunnel.
If you are able to help, below are several ways you can support these organizations and ensure that other Coloradans can get the food and other community services they need.
To give money. If your finances allow it, the best and probably the easiest way to help is to donate money. At the Rocky Mountain Food Bank, every $1 donation is enough to pay for four meals due to the group’s grocery store rescue program, government allowances, food donations and lower wholesale prices from agricultural and retail partners. “A financial donation is the most effective way to support our mission to feed people facing hunger,” says Desai.
Gift cards to retailers are also convenient, but many organizations prefer cash because it offers more flexibility and can be used to order food in bulk from various vendors, Cowell says.
Volunteer. Your time and skills are also extremely valuable. Individuals and groups of volunteers (such as a work team or social club) can help by volunteer at the Rocky Mountain Food Bank distribution center six days a week. Needs change daily, but whatever tasks you do as a volunteer at the Rocky Mountain Food Bank facilities, you will be helping the organization provide “enough food for meet the increased needs,” says Desai.
OUR Center volunteers can take shifts in his market, cafe, closet and warehouse during normal weekday office hours.
give food. Especially for food pantries, sites that donate food and meals directly to community members, donating food is an effective way to help out at this time. As inflation has increased, many of these organizations have seen a steady decline in donations, which means they are running out of so many vital items that they regularly share with people.
OUR Center, for example, needs different forms of protein – peanut butter, ground beef, chicken, etc. – as well as dried or canned beans. She and many other organizations regularly update their websites Where social media pages to outline exactly what kinds of food they’re short on right now, so bookmark them and check back regularly, especially right before donating.
Don’t forget the other essentials. Many pantries also support community members in other ways, so if your budget allows, consider donating personal hygiene products, childcare items, and other household essentials. Families need diapers and baby formula, which are in short supply right now, Cowell says.
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