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Food Bank CEO Looks to Future

Amy Pezzani - Food Bank for Larimer County CEOAmy Pezzani, the CEO of the Food Bank for Larimer County has been interested in social justice issues since she was a child. In college, Amy majored in sociology to follow her passion. However, it wasn’t long before Amy needed help.

“I left home at 18 and paid for everything on my own. I had no financial support system and it was really hard. There were times that I worked 40 hours a week and went to school full-time, but I still couldn’t make ends meet.” She learned firsthand that,  “You can do everything you’re supposed to do, but sometimes you can’t keep up anyways. It’s stressful.” For a time,  Amy relied on food stamps to make sure she had enough to eat.

After college, Amy signed up for the Vista Volunteers program and volunteered at a food bank in Missouri for two years. Following that assignment, she was offered a full-time position. Shortly thereafter, the food bank’s director resigned and even though she was only 25, Amy applied for the position. She was shocked and thrilled to get the job; Amy had an incredible passion and desire to help people and felt like it was a great opportunity.

She served as the director of the Missouri food bank for four years before making the tough decision to come West, to Colorado. After living here for two years, the chief executive officer position at the Food Bank for Larimer County became available. She was awarded the job and has held this position since July 2004. As the CEO, Amy is responsible for the day to day operations of the organization, including human resources, financial management, fundraising, advocacy, public relations, and strategic planning.

Her favorite part of her job is the community partnerships that she’s able to help build. She says, “I love finding new ways to provide food for our community. I also like that things change all the time and that no two years, or even days, look alike. I feel inspired and motivated by learning and trying new things.”

Despite the great things that come along with her job, Amy wishes people understood the Food Bank for Larimer County does not just serve the homeless population, which is just a small percentage of guests. She says, “Nearly every street in every county in our country, there is someone who has used a food bank.” Amy went on to say,  “By and large, they are just in the same boat as I was in; many have degrees… They’re are doing it all right, but still not able to keep up with healthcare, housing, and childcare costs.”

As our community continues to grapple with housing and childcare affordability issues,  Amy sees the need for Food Bank services only increasing. “I feel like we are going to become more of a coping strategy for more people in our community.” She aims to make food more accessible through partnerships, pantries, and new ideas that will reduce hunger and alleviate the stress of feeding families.

When she looks to the future, Amy is excited. She notes, “We have such a huge ability to impact public health. We are impacting the health of people because we know food insecurity leads to other chronic health conditions and when we can provide good, nutritious food, we can make an impact. I am excited to continue down that path.”

When she’s not working at the Food Bank, Amy prefers to be outside when she can. She mountain bikes, hikes, and runs as much as possible. She also enjoys home improvement projects and reading.

Save the Date – Front Range Rally 2017!

Front Range Rally 2017Save the Date for the 2017 Front Range Rally – May 20! Now in its fifth year,  Front Range Rally is a beer festival and food truck rally that celebrates Colorado’s rich culture of craft brewing and myriad of mobile food vendors in our region. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the festival will be given to the Food Bank to support our vision of a hunger-free Larimer county.

This year’s Front Range Rally will feature nearly 55 craft beverage makers that will serve over 150 unique beers, wines, ciders and spirits alongside ten local food truck favorites that will deliver an array of delicious fare. Live, local music will grace the stage to round out a perfect day of fun in the Colorado sun.

The Rally will take place Loveland Food Share, 2600 N. Lincoln, Loveland, CO from 2:30 – 7 PM on May 20th, 2017.

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at www.FrontRangeRally.com. With early bird pricing through March 31st, tickets are only $30! After this special pricing period, tickets will go up to $40; $50 at the door. Ticket includes admission to festival grounds, food trucks, live music, and UNLIMITED beer sampling. (Food is sold separately.) V.I.P. tickets and designated driver tickets are also available.

We still have room for additional sponsors, food trucks, and craft brewers and distillers. If you’re interested, please contact us for more information. The Front Range Rally will also be looking for volunteers beginning in April.

Click here to see a current list of participating breweries, food trucks, and get your tickets. Don’t forget to invite your friends to the Rally!

 

Local Artists Contribute to Ending Hunger at Empty Bowls

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Empty Bowls event.  As a major fundraiser for the Food Bank, Empty Bowls raises awareness by reminding us that thousands of our neighbors face empty bowls on their tables throughout the year. For the price of one ticket to Empty Bowls, guests will help the Food Bank provide over $250 worth of food to serve hope to families in need in our community.  To mark this momentous anniversary, this year’s Empty Bowls will feature a VIP Artist Reception, live auction clay throwing demonstrations, and a special program from Food Bank CEO, Amy Pezzani. Local notable artists will be performing in clay throwing demonstrations and donating original artwork to the silent auction. Artists include:

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Food Bank Client Knits Hats as a Way to Give Back

Food Bank for Larimer County Partnership with VOAEighty year old Bobbie is a retired nurse. She spent 30 years of her career in long-term senior care. Four years ago, after the death of her mother, who was an avid knitter, Bobbie inherited “drawers and bags” of yarn. She wasn’t sure what to do with it all and that’s when her friend Vicki suggested she start making hats to honor her mother’s memory. Bobbie loved the idea and together that year they knitted 200 hats and donated them to Coats for Colorado.

Around that same time, Bobbie started using the Food Bank. Due to a series of circumstances, Bobbie had lost her home and moved to a small apartment.  She was finding it harder and harder to make ends meet on her Social Security income. Vicki suggested she use the Food Bank.

“I remember the first time I visited, everyone was so friendly and welcoming,” said Bobbie. “I felt at home the minute I walked in.”

That’s when Bobbie decided to start donating hats to the Food Bank. Together with her friend Vicki, they knitted hats and dropped them off during their weekly visits. They made hats in a variety of colors and sizes. She was especially happy when she had blue and orange yarn to be able to make Broncos hats!  In 2015, Vicki died suddenly after a short illness. Bobbie says that she now makes her hats in honor of both her mother and her dear friend. She estimates that she’s donated over 1,000 hats over the last few years. Although she ran out of her mother’s yarn years ago, word has spread and Bobbie receives donated yarn from a variety of sources. She also stops by resale shops to find deals. Bobbie has never considered selling her hats.

“My life isn’t easy, but I have a roof over my head, food and family,” said Bobbie. “I know there are people at the Food Bank who have it worse than me. Knowing that my hats keep people warm makes me happy.”

Food Resource Manager Plays an Integral Role at the Food Bank

Food Resource Manager for the the Food Bank for Larimer CountyIn the simplest terms, Josh Greene is responsible for getting food for the Food Bank for Larimer County to provide to families, children, and seniors in need in our community, but his role is anything but simple.

Greene grew up in Fort Collins, attending Poudre High School, and when he decided to settle down and start a family he headed back home; he now has three children and loves living here. Josh says he got into this career by accident. 

He worked in audio production, drove a truck, and then began managing a local food distribution company’s logistics and operations. When he saw a job posting for a similar role at the Food Bank for Larimer County he knew it was a perfect match of his skills and passion. At the Food Bank, Josh is the Food Resource Manager, in charge of all sourcing and transportation of food. He spends his day working to determine what the Food Bank needs, finding available food from retail partners, local farmers, and other organizations, and managing the logistics of getting it in house. 

Josh navigates partnerships with Feeding America, local retailers, and farmers, to source donated food that the Food Bank, in turn, distributes to people in need. While the food is donated, the Food Bank does have to pay transportation fees and other associated costs. However, Josh works hard to keep costs low, in fact, on average, the Food Bank pays less than $0.15 per pound for the food it distributes. Last year, the Food Bank distributed more than 9 million pounds of food through its hunger-relief programs. More than 3 million pounds of that food came from retail donors within Larimer County. An additional 25% of food was sourced from local Colorado agricultural producers and the remainder was acquired from national partnerships based on availability. Last year, the Food Bank served more than 36,000 individuals. 

When asked about his favorite part of his job, Josh said, “I like food system development. I thoroughly enjoy being a part of building a strong local food economy, working to reclaim waste and make food accessible to everyone.”

He wishes people better understood the scale at which the Food Bank operates. “There is a misconception that we are operating out of a garage and only distributing at church pantries, but it’s more than that. If people understood the scale, they would understand the need.”

Josh relayed a story of one Food Share client saying to him, “Thank you for feeding me today.” That sentiment has stuck with him to this day and he comes to work every day intending to do just that.

Watch this short video of Josh detailing the scale at which the Food Bank for Larimer County operates.

Join us for the 20th Anniversary of Empty Bowls!

Empty Bowls 2017This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Empty Bowls on February 2, 2017. This major fundraiser for the Food Bank for Larimer County began at Lopez Elementary when an art teacher, Mike McCarthy, inspired his students to create empty bowls to represent those who do not have enough to eat. Forty community members gathered at Lopez and an annual event to raise funds and awareness for hunger-relief in Fort Collins was born. In 1997, the inaugural year of Empty Bowls, the Food Bank for Larimer County distributed two million pounds of food to those in need. As Empty Bowls has grown, so too has the need in our community.

By purchasing tickets to the Empty Bowls event, guests will receive a hand-crafted pottery bowl created by a Poudre School District student or local artist. Fort Collins’ restaurants will provide soup for dinner and ice cream and coffee for dessert.  A silent art auction will also take place during the event.

As a major fundraiser for the Food Bank, Empty Bowls raises awareness by reminding us that thousands of our neighbors face empty bowls on their tables throughout the year. For the price of one ticket to Empty Bowls, guests will help the Food Bank provide over $250 worth of food to serve hope to families in need in our community.

Empty Bowls has grown from offering five signature soups in 1998 to over twenty soups in 2016 and has raised more than $775,000 over the years for the Food Bank’s hunger-relief programs.

Special 20th Anniversary Events Include:

  • VIP Artists’ Reception at 4:30 pm – more details to come!
  • Live Auction Clay Throwing
  • Special Anniversary Program
  • Recognition Ceremony

Seating is limited at the Empty Bowls event, purchase your tickets here as they frequently sell out.

Details:

Date: Thursday, February 2, 2017
Time: 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Location: Hilton Fort Collins
Tickets: $55/individual; $100/pair
Purchase your tickets.

Great Things Happen When Our Community Comes Together

Food Bank for Larimer County Annual Turkey DriveLast week, the outpouring of community support for the Food Bank was overwhelming. On Monday morning we faced a near empty freezer, with only 300 turkeys out of the 2,500 turkeys we were hoping to distribute to our nonprofit partners. Not wanting to give up hope, we put out a call to our friends in the local media and shared our dilemma with our social networks.

And then the magic happened! Over the course of two days, the community responded in the most energizing and generous way possible. Our freezer went from 300 turkeys to 3,700! We surpassed our goal, leaving us beyond grateful and also thrilled to be able to distribute more turkeys to more families in need this holiday season.

Full freezer following Turkey Drive for Larimer county Food BankThe success of this year’s turkey drive is just one example of the character of our community. It also serves as a reminder that great things happen when we come together. We are more confident than ever before that we can work together to address additional challenges, like making sure everyone has enough to eat every day; a safe place to live; access to the healthcare they need; and affordable childcare.

We encourage everyone in Larimer County to keep up the momentum from this year’s turkey drive and band together to find solutions to challenges facing our community both large and small. And please, continue to look for ways to make a positive impact whether it’s by donating your time or your treasure or your ideas. When we work together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

Cans Around the Oval Celebrates 30th Anniversary

It started with one student and a two-page proposal for a canned food drive. From there, another student built on the idea. Their actions set the course for the Colorado State University tradition known as Cans Around the Oval.

1987 News ArticleThe Idea

In 1987, journalism student Susan Trautman created a plan for a food drive for one of her classes. After completing the paper, she decided to execute. Following,  she contacted Food Bank for Larimer County’s Director, Sandy Bowden. Bowden loved the idea and even suggested the name “Cans Around the Oval.” In the following weeks, Trautman recruited six fraternities and challenged them to compete to see which group could collect the most cans. Her goal was 2,500 pounds.  The six fraternities spent one-week canvassing neighborhoods to ask for donations.  At the end of the week, they had collected 5,318 pounds of food! Members of the fraternities and other organizers lined the oval with the cans to celebrate the generosity of the community.

Carrying the Torch

In 1988, graduate student Victoria Keller was hired to oversee the efforts of the Office of Community Services  (OCS) at CSU. She remembered reading about the Cans Around the Oval proposal and had worked with Sandy Bowden in the past.  She decided the project fit well with the goals of OCS.  That year, the participant list expanded beyond fraternities and Cans Around the Oval collected nearly 11,000 pounds of food for the Food Bank for Larimer County. After graduation, Victoria joined the staff of OCS and successfully lead the growth of Cans Around the Oval for nearly 15 years.

Cans Around the Oval started with one student who wanted to make a difference. Thirty years later, over 16,000 people from the CSU campus and the local community continue the tradition. Moreover, Cans Around the Oval has become integral to raising hunger awareness and providing resources to fight hunger in our community. An idea sparked by a class assignment has now become part of the University’s history and a huge benefit to the overall well-being of Larimcr County.

Learn more about this year’s Cans Around the Oval.