245 Colorado food pantries receive share of $4M in emergency funds

The Colorado governor’s office, the state Department of Human Services and Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger this week announced more than $4 million in emergency funding to be distributed to 245 food pantries across the state.

Food pantries across Colorado experienced an increased demand at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — one that continues to grow as inflation rises and aid programs are reduced.

“We provide food to these families at no cost, but someone has to shoulder the cost,” said Jeff Fard, grant recipient and founder of Brother Jeff’s Community Center. “This grant supports that… and shows that not only is there a need, but there’s a heart for the community.”

Brandon McKinley, a spokesperson for grant-recipient Metro Caring, an anti-hunger organization dedicated to meeting people’s immediate needs while building a larger movement, said the recent reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits has caused more families and individuals to turn to food pantries for assistance.

“This funding helps us meet people’s immediate needs for nutritious foods and helps us stock our fresh food market as the demand rises,” McKinley said. “We’re seeing such an increased need from the community that our demand is up 400% from where it was this time last year.”

Funding and donations usually come from grocery stores, individuals and religious organizations, but the inflated need has made the emergency grant necessary, he said.

“Food is not an option, but with the escalating costs of housing, gas, energy and everything else, people are having to make choices about food,” Fard said. “And this is affecting everyone, it’s not the stereotypical face of hunger.”

During the 2023 legislative session, state lawmakers and Gov. Jared Polis allocated funding to local organizations that provide direct access to food in their communities.

The Colorado Department of Human Services redirected $14 million in supplemental state funding specifically for food banks and food pantries, and the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger distributed $4.05 million of those funds through its pre-existing Food Pantry Assistance Grant program.

“This important support is part of our work to make sure Coloradans have access to healthy food in their communities and the resources and support they need to thrive,” Polis said in a statement.

The grant distribution program, established in 2018 by Hunger Free Colorado and the Colorado Food Pantry Network, supports organizations that provide Colorado communities access to healthy food options, including Colorado Ethiopian Community, Denver Inner City Parish, Jewish Family Services and Montbello Organizing Committee.

Grant opportunities are open to all food pantries in the state, with a focus on purchasing meat, dairy and fresh produce from local farmers, ranchers and producers and expanding access to culturally relevant and nutritional foods.

“All of the food pantries awarded funding align with the program goals and our commitment to equity,” Dana Wood, the Blueprint’s community investment manager, said in a statement. “By working with CDHS and the governor’s office to distribute these grants, we’re moving closer towards our vision of a Colorado where everyone who lives here can access the food they choose, where they want it, and when they need it.”

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