Thanks to All Who Made the Taste Benefit 2017 a Success

Cacciatore at Heller's Kitchen accepts the Toast of the Taste Award.Another Taste Benefit is in the books and by all accounts it was a fantastic event. Once again, restaurants, beverage companies, community volunteers and supporters came out in huge numbers to support the Food Bank for Larimer County in its fight against hunger.

Hundreds of supporters packed the Marriott Fort Collins for the Taste Benefit 2017 to sample delicious food and beverage from some of the area’s top restaurants, breweries and wineries. This year was the 24th year for the Taste Benefit, widely considered the “foodie” event of the year in Fort Collins, with 100% of the proceeds benefitting the Food Bank for Larimer County.

This was the first year the Food Bank hosted the event at the Marriott Fort Collins. The new location allowed guests to sample food and beverage in the main Ballroom and out in the Pavilion, an indoor/outdoor club-style setting. Music provided by Mark Sloniker and DJ Pirate helped set the festive tone of the evening. Ample space and plenty of parking were two simple, but important changes, that helped make the night a success.

Congratulations to Cacciatore at Heller’s Kitchen, voted Toast of the Taste by attendees. A special thank you to all our sponsors, restaurants, beverage purveyors,Taste Benefit 2017 volunteers and staff who put in long hours to make this year’s Taste Benefit one of the best ever! For complete details on all who participated in the event, visit the Taste Benefit online. And visit the Food bank’s Facebook page to check out photos from the event.

September is Hunger Action Month and the Taste Benefit marks the halfway point in our effort to raise awareness about those in need. Here are a few things YOU can do to take action during Hunger Action Month.

1) Donate; $1 = $5 worth of food.
2) Volunteer at the Food Bank.
3) Follow us, share us and love us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #fblc.
4) Plant It Forward! Drop off your extra garden produce at the Food Bank.
5) Start your own fundraising campaign; donate your wedding or birthday or other special occasion.

Join us for the Taste Benefit 2017!

Taste Benefit 2017The Taste Benefit is an annual food and beverage tasting event providing guests with the opportunity to sample some of Northern Colorado’s finest cuisine from locally owned restaurants. In addition to great food, guests can also sample local craft beers and a variety of wines while enjoying live music and bidding on fabulous silent auction items. This year, we are mixing things up with a new date, new venue and a new look. The 2017 Taste Benefit will take place on September 14th at the Fort Collins Marriott and will feature a new club-style setting in the outdoor pavilion, a larger auction space and check-in area, and a VIP lounge with exclusive food and drink offerings. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, 100% of every ticket sold supports the Food Bank’s hunger-relief programs.

Well-known and delicious restaurants from around the community will join us! See a full list of restaurants here. The participating breweries and wineries round out the Taste Benefit. See the list of beverage providers here. Secure tickets to the Taste Benefit 2017 for a night filled with food, fun, and drinks!

Get tickets and join us! 

Please note: All attendees of the Taste must be 21 years of age or older.

 

Take a Look Behind the Scenes: Meet Stacy!

If you’re wondering what goes on behind the scenes at the Food Bank for Larimer County, look no further than Stacy Stolen. Her role as Chief Compliance Officer may be little known, but it’s vital to the success of the organization.  

Stacy handles all audits, compliance, and HR tasks for the Food Bank. Her day-to-day role varies widely, but focuses on hiring, collaborating with other team members for on-boarding, benefits, employee engagement, and ensuring the organization is ready at all times for audits and compliance tasks.

Based on grants, the parent organization – Feeding America – and other requirements, the Food Bank must be constantly ready to have others oversee the work, facilities, and documentation. Stacy’s role ensures the Food Bank is not only meeting, but exceeding, these requirements in order to continue to provide food to those in need in our community.

She began working at the Food Bank on a part-time basis two years ago; as a result of bringing much of the work in house and the growing needs of the organization, her position has evolved into a full-time role. Stacy loves her work at the Food Bank, “I go home every day with my cup filled,” she mentioned. “I love our staff and the mission we’re working towards. That makes me feel great, even on the toughest days.”

Stacy’s favorite part of her job is the wonderful people she works with at the Food Bank. “It’s delightful to be around people who are passionate; we have such a great team with different interests and personalities, but everyone believes in what we are doing.”

If anything, Stacy wishes people understood the magnitude of the Food Bank. Not only does the Food Bank feed thousands through our food share and mobile pantry locations, the organization also partners with over 80 agencies to feed more in Larimer County. “Every day our staff works so hard to treat guests with dignity and respect; everyone goes way above and beyond what I’ve ever seen in a non-profit.”

In her free time, Stacy enjoys life with her daughter and friends. She loves working in the yard and spending time outside.

Making A Difference for the Kids at Lago Vista

For the last eight years, retired teachers Laney and Duncan Howard have dedicated their time, talents and hearts to the kids at Lago Vista Mobile Home Community in Loveland. What started as a small reading program with 10 or 20 kids has grown into a successful year-round program supporting up to 150 kids each year. The program ramps up in the summer providing a variety of activities three mornings each week, including reading, art, chess and outdoor recreation designed for children ages 5 and up. In addition to the activities designed to support academic, social and emotional success for elementary students, Laney and Duncan developed a leadership program for the community’s middle and high school students. This year, they have 16 kids in the leadership training program— more than ever. They treat it like a job, with an application, an interview and required hours. Kids receive a “small stipend” at the end of the summer for completing the program.

Edwin from Lago Vista

Edwin is one of 16 kids in the leadership program at Lago Vista.

Edwin, age 13, has been in the leadership program for three years and says, “It’s fun. It’s a great way to learn about being a leader and being responsible. You get to help the [younger] kids with reading and homework and play games.”

The Food Bank for Larimer County is proud to partner with Lago Vista community and has been providing Kids Cafe meals and snacks since 2014. According to Laney, the Kids Cafe food really makes a difference for many of the kids in the community. “When kids come in the morning for a snack, a lot ask if they can take food home for dinner.” She says it makes her feel good to know they are getting one good meal. Tacos are especially popular and almost every child asks for seconds … or thirds. “Shawn would eat 3rds or 4ths of everything if he could. He’s hungry all of the time, things are pretty rough at home,” shared Laney.

“I love the food,” shared 17-year-old Lydia.  “The tacos are really good. That’s my favorite. Or anything with salad, vegetables, fruit—I’m all for it!”

Making a Difference

During their second summer at Lago Vista, Loveland Police visited the mobile home community manager and said: “what are you doing here?” Lago Vista had been infamous for vandalism, fights and other criminal activity, but that summer there had been only one incident reported. The park manager attributed the change to Laney and Duncan’s investment in the community. And that’s not the only difference they’re seeing. At the end of the 2016-17 school year, Laney received an email from the Dean of Loveland High School sharing that 15 out of the 16 seniors in the community graduated. In a community where 90+% of the kids qualify for free and reduced lunch, that graduation rate is unheard of – the district and statewide rate is around 67%.

Laney credits their success to creating an atmosphere where it’s ok to learn and study. They’ve also established a program called Graduation and Beyond for high school students. It includes a monthly speaker and a scholarship program that can be used for any continuing education, it’s not restricted to college. She’s really proud of the students they’ve worked within the community who are now attending the University of Northern Colorado, working on welding certification and going to cosmetology school.

“It’s a small program, but growing and we trust we are making a difference,” said Laney.

Lydia’s Story

Lydia from Lago VistaLydia is 17 and has been in the leadership program at Lago Vista for several summers. She has grown in maturity and social skills to the point that she has been hired as a paid summer staff member, a position usually reserved for college students. She works 13.5 hours per week. Home life isn’t easy, her parents are divorced and her dad is a vet and has cancer, so she’s currently living with a friend.

“The leadership program, for me, it’s grown me to be a more mature young lady. I like being there for the kids and helping them with school.” Her sister “used to do this job, but she’s in college now.”

Nine Ways to Give Back This Summer

Childhood Hunger - Food Bank for Larimer CountyIt’s finally summer — and while we’re excited for the lazy days ahead, for many kids summer is anything but carefree. For millions of kids, the end of school means the end of school meals that guarantee regular access to nutritious food. Childhood hunger affects as many as 1 in 3 kids in our community and this summer is no exception.

The good news is there’s a lot you and your family can do to help kids facing hunger this summer. In between the pool parties and summer getaways, find time to give back with these fun activities for your family.

  1. Get to know the need in your own community. Feeding America network food banks run amazing programs, from providing summer meals for kids to teaching healthy cooking classes to gathering unharvested crops from local farms. Join us for our Plant it Forward program and consider donating to fund summer hunger relief programs.
  2. Set up a lemonade stand to fight summer hunger. Get your kids and your neighbors involved in the mission to end hunger by brewing up some homemade lemonade and donating the proceeds.
  3. Plant a family garden and donate part of your harvest to the Food Bank for Larimer County. It’s the ultimate DIY: Use your outdoor space or get involved with a community garden to grow fruits and vegetables that can fill empty plates. Plant it Forward!
  4. Make that 5k go even farther by using an upcoming race as a way to raise money to fight child hunger. Set a fundraising goal to reach by the time of your race and ask your friends and family to support you while you train. Start a virtual food drive here.
  5. Organize a community food drive. Join forces with your church, local supermarket or other community organization to collect donated food. Learn the ins and outs of organizing a food drive.
  6. Buy an extra bag of food. When you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping, pick up a few extra nonperishable items and bag separately. Then a few times throughout the summer, drop off your collection at your local food bank. A local family in need can enjoy the same meal as you, making your dinnertime that much more special. Find where you can drop off needed groceries.
  7. Fundraise with your social network. Facebook Fundraisers make it easy to rally your friends and family to support children facing hunger. Setting up a fundraiser for Feeding America just takes a few minutes — get started today.
  8. Volunteer! There’s nothing more rewarding than spending an afternoon making a difference for your own community. There are many opportunities to volunteer at the Food Bank for Larimer County, learn more.
  9. Spread the world. Educate your friends on the ways you’re fighting child hunger or invite them to volunteer with you. Share with your friends and followers on social media your experience fighting hunger and encourage them to do the same. Check out the Food Bank for Larimer County’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

As many as 1 in 3 children in our community are at risk of hunger. The Food Bank for Larimer County feeds thousands of kids every year who would otherwise not know where their next meal will come from. Please consider donating to help us end childhood hunger.

Adapted from a Feeding America article by Brooke Still

2017 Corporate Food Fight Results

Corporate Food FightThirty-four companies put on the gloves and battled their way to raise an unprecedented $172,472 and 6,211 pounds of food for the Food Bank for Larimer County’s 2017 Corporate Food Fight. The Corporate Food Fight challenges local businesses to raise food and funds for hunger-relief programming in the community.

The event runs the entire month of April, but each company designs their own campaign timeline. Some companies do a simple food drive while others host a food-based event like a bake sale or chili cook-off. This year, some got down-right creative and hosted a poker tournament and a food truck rally! Over the course of the last 18 years, food fighters have raised well over $1,200,000 to provide food assistance for children, seniors and families in Larimer County.

 

2017 Corporate Food Fight Champions

Grand Champion: NVIDIA

Impact Award: Davis Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

Corporate Champion: AMD

Community Champions: Verus Bank of Commerce and Woodward

Newcomer Award: Madwire

“We are so grateful to all of the participating companies for their support,” said Heather Buoniconti, Chief Development Officer, Food Bank for Larimer County. “While it’s about competition, our food fighters pour their hearts, souls and creativity into raising food and funds with the goal of ending hunger in our community.”

Corporate Food Fighters in 2017 included: Action Staffing Solutions, AMD, Broadcom, Caliber Collision, Choice Organics, Comcast Spotlight, Co’s BMW Center and Mini of Loveland, Davis Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Encompass Medical Partners, First National Bank, First Western Trust, FirstBank, HPE, HPI, Infinite Wellness Center, Intel Corporation, Kind Care, Liberty Tax Service, LPR Construction, Madwire, MM Solutions, Northern Colorado Commercial Association of Realtors, NVIDIA, Odell Brewing Company, Platte River Power Authority, Premier Regenerative Stem Cell and Wellness Center, Prosci, Smokey’s 420 House, Tolmar, Inc., UCHealth, Verus Bank of Commerce, Woodward, Inc., Xcel Energy.

Meet Craig – Loveland’s Food Share Manager!

Craig Fowler Food Bank for Larimer County Food Share ManagerCraig Fowler, the Food Share Manager at the Loveland location, thrives on the interaction he’s able to have with program guests. His warm smile says it all, “I enjoy seeing the faces of the people, getting to know their stories, and having the opportunity to chat with them. It’s a good feeling. Not just giving food out, but having a deeper connection with as many people as I can.”

As the Food Share manager, he works with his staff to set up the floor based on the available food donations.  It’s a balance of making sure all the goods are given out while they’re at their freshest, without running out before the Food Bank closes for the day. “I try to end up with one extra loaf of bread every day, and nothing else.”

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Why Sharon Plants it Forward

Plant it Forward - Fort Collins, COHaving most recently worked in the Social Sustainability Department for the City of Fort Collins, Sharon has been involved in the Plant it Forward program from the very beginning and loves working on collaborative events and projects. She mentions, “I really like that people can participate and help a really good nonprofit without a lot of extra work.”

Plant it Forward is a partnership between the Gardens on Spring Creek and the Food Bank for Larimer County. All gardeners are invited to plant an extra row to fight hunger in our community. Share your bounty with children, families, and seniors in need of food assistance and help end hunger.

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Karen Plants it Forward… Will You?

Now that Karen, a long-time Fort Collins resident, is retired, she has more time to garden. And for the last few years, she’s shared her bounty with neighbors experiencing hunger through our Plant It Forward program. Plant It Forward, is a partnership between the Food Bank and the Gardens on Spring Creek, that encourages produce donations from backyard gardeners and local farms to help provide nutritious food to guests of the Food Bank. All community members are invited and challenged to plant an extra row in their garden; when crops are ready, donations – both large and small – are given to families, children, and seniors in our community.

When Karen retired, she began devoting more of her time to her love of gardening. Through her work with the Gardens on Spring Creek, she learned about Plant it Forward and immediately felt it was a natural fit for her passion for gardening and her desire to give back to the community that has given so much to her.  “I connected all the dots and recognized, I want to garden more. This program gives me a good reason to and it goes to a good cause. It is perfect for me.”

Since the beginning, Karen has been an amazing ambassador for the program. She began small and last summer, she was able to grow over 1,000 pounds of produce to donate to the Plant it Forward program. She uses her large garden plot to grow everything from early season crops of lettuce, peas, and spinach to squash, peppers, onions, beets, kale, and much more. She is also a Plant It Forward Champion, meaning she collects donations from gardeners in her neighborhood to drop off at the Food Bank.

Karen mentioned, “I am committed to my Fort Collins community; I just love this place. I always knew I could do more to give back and I wanted to do something that would make a difference. Combined with my passion for gardening, Plant it Forward is a great way for me to help those who are less fortunate.”

She wished more people knew about the program and how easy it is to participate. “Even if folks don’t have a big garden or extra produce to donate, every little bit helps.”

According to the USDA , “people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases.” Your donation will help feed neighbors in need leading to a healthier and more vibrant community for all. Plant it Forward is made successful by backyard gardeners of all levels and of all donation sizes coming together to fight hunger in our community. Karen Plants it Forward, will you? Click here to learn more about the program and how you, too, can participate.

 

Hunger Doesn’t End – Why Food Share Manager Works Hard Everyday

Food Bank for Larimer County Food Share Manager

Jan is the Fort Collins Food Share Manager at the Food Bank; every day she brings her infectious smile and warm hugs because she knows the face of hunger. “Jobs don’t pay enough and people just don’t have enough to afford to pay bills and feed their families. I’ve been there, my children have been there, my granddaughter is there. Hunger doesn’t end.”

She fights hunger by serving as the manager of  Fort Collins Food Share, a grocery store-like operation where people can come ‘shop’ for food, at no cost, when they struggle to have the resources to cover their basic needs. Her team is made up of two full-time employees and 6-8 volunteers, daily. Together they set up Food Share and manage the check-in and distribution process. She also trains volunteers and helps answer any guest questions about the process and available foods.

The Food Share program is one of the nation’s largest, client-choice, fresh food pantries. Jan and her team work to distribute fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, and dairy to over 14,000 residents each month. Individuals qualify for Food Share based on gross monthly income. The goal is to provide each person with enough food for at least one meal per day.

“My favorite part of my job has to be the children,” said Jan.  “I have had the opportunity to form many great relationships. I look forward to seeing them and I think they look forward to seeing me, too”. Regardless of age, Jan enjoys talking to all guests and knows hearing their stories is a great privilege. She’s proud of the report she and her team have been able to establish with many guests.  “An important part of my job is to recognize that we’re here to listen to what they have to say and hear their stories; it’s more than just giving them food.”

Another major facet of her job is customer service. Not only does she want every guest to find something they can eat, regardless of their cooking facilities, but also to feel welcome. “We want everyone to know that we’re happy they’ve come!”

Food Bank for Larimer County VolunteerIn Jan’s seven years at the Food Bank, she’s seen lots of changes, including a dramatic increase in need. Fortunately, food donations and community support have also increased. She’s also seen a focus on providing  fresh and nutritious foods to guests. She wishes people knew, “The Food Bank is not just about homeless people. Everyone should be aware that our services are for anyone; it’s for people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families.”

One of Jan’s most poignant stories from her time working in Food Share is of a little girl and her mom. The mother was in poor health and the girl was usually very hungry when they arrived. Jan always tried to make sure to get her something to eat while her mother shopped. One time, the girl said to Jan, “If something happens to my mom, you’ll be here to take care of me and my baby brother.”

As a result of stories like this and her daily interactions with guests, Jan feels very proud to be working in Food Share. She notes, “It’s great to know that most everyone is really grateful for our services. They all leave with a shopping cart full of food and a happy face.”