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March: National Nutrition Month – Addressing Hunger+Health

March National Nutrition Month Food Bank for Larimer County

There is an undeniable correlation between hunger and health in America. Families, children, and seniors living with food insecurity are less likely to have access to healthy and fresh foods, increasing the likelihood for nutrition-related health issues. March is National Nutrition Month and the Food Bank is committed to providing healthy and nutritious food for our guests each and every month. The Food Bank works to educate and provide nutritious food through these programs:

  • Tasting Table – At both Food Share locations, the Food Bank provides samples of healthy meal options with take-home recipes. Recipes include items from the Food Bank shelves to give guests meal planning ideas.
  • Plant it Forward – In partnership with the Gardens on Spring Creek, community members donate fresh fruit and vegetables from home gardens to the Food Bank. Click here to learn more about Plant it Forward and how you can participate.
  • Partnerships with Health Care Providers – Currently, the Food Bank is partnering with the Family Medicine Center (FMC) to offer emergency food boxes for qualifying patients. We’re working to expand this partnership and offer a full pantry this spring. We also are working with other area medical providers to offer similar services later this year.
  • Mobile Food Pantry – In partnerships with Colorado State University and the Foothills Unitarian Church, we offer accessible fresh and nutritious food to students and community members closer to where they live.

We recognize the strong link between hunger and health and are committing resources to make a positive impact on the health of the people we serve. Last year, we provided food to 36,000 individuals in Larimer County. Of the food we distributed, over 37% was fresh produce. By continuing to focus on providing nutritious food, we can make huge strides towards the overall health of our community.

“We have such a huge ability to impact public health,” stated Amy Pezzani, CEO, Food Bank for Larimer County. 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.”

Learn more about the intersections between hunger and health by watching this short video from Hunger+Health:

To further understand the deep connection between food and health, please visit Feeding America’s Hunger+Health website.

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.

Food Bank Use Comes Full Circle

cowgirl4-1When Sandy Beardsley, mother of three children, found herself divorced, living in Indiana, away from her family, with no financial support, she had to think fast about how she would be able to feed herself and her kids. Working off the advice of a friend who said, “you’re a good cook, why don’t you try catering,” that’s exactly what she did.

Sandy got a cooler and began making simple bologna sandwiches with side dishes to sell to mill workers at the steel mills outside Chicago. During this time, Sandy frequented the Food Bank in Indiana to help makes ends meet for her family.

With the little money she made from her lunch route and the cost savings the Food Bank provided, Sandy eventually scraped together enough money to move back to Colorado to be near her family. She lived with her mother for the first year and began utilizing the Food Bank for Larimer County’s services. She worked hard and saved where she could in order to pull her family out of the need for the Food Bank.

cowgirl3Cowgirl Catering, working all over Northern Colorado. The company has two catering vans and is in the process of building a commercial kitchen. Sandy has cooked for many well-known bands at the Greeley Stampede and many big events in our community including CSU Equine Events, weddings, and parties. Cowgirl Catering is a well-known catering business in this region of Colorado.

If fact, Cowgirl Catering recently catered a volunteer recognition event for the Food Bank for Larimer County. She made a Seven Layer Bean Dip, Turkey Roll Ups, and many other great dishes for the event and guests were very impressed with the food offerings.

When asked about the Food Bank, Sandy commented, “The Food Bank helped keep the cost of raising my family down, so I could eek my way along. It took me a long time to save enough to move and get back on my feet.”

cowgirl2“I couldn’t have done it without the Food Bank. I fed my family everyday for 5 years, 3 years in Indiana and 2 more in Colorado.” Without the Food Bank, “I couldn’t have even made any money. Using their services allowed me to build my business because I didn’t have to worry about food as much.”

Sandy went on to say, she, in-part, credits the success of Cowgirl Catering to the Food Bank. “I have a successful business because it gave me that leg up.”

By reducing her family’s food insecurity, Sandy was able to focus her talents and energy towards building a successful catering company with her daughter; a small-business that now supports them well.

Senior Hunger

New Food Bank Partnership with VOA Will Provide Meals for Seniors

 

VOA PartnersBeginning this week, the Food Bank is partnering with Volunteers of America (VOA) to offer senior meals at nine sites throughout the county. The new partnership developed after a pilot meal program last spring. Previously, VOA had been working with a contractor out of Denver.

According to VOA’s Nutrition Program Manager, Emily Gorgol, VOA selected the Food Bank because they want to work with community partners who understand, prioritize and are passionate about ending senior hunger. She credits the Food Bank with “understanding the problem and wanting to be part of the solution”.

Senior Hunger in Larimer County

The impact of food insecurity on seniors is far-reaching. Thousands of seniors in our community live on fixed incomes and face tough choices when it comes to making ends meet. Often, seniors have to make the tough choice between medical care/medication and having enough to eat. When seniors cut back on meals or select cheaper, less nutrient-rich foods, it is more difficult to manage illness and maintain health.

A 2014 study published by Feeding America found that seniors who lack adequate nutrition are:

  • 60% more likely to experience depression
  • 53% more likely to report a heart attack
  • 52% more likely to develop asthma
  • 40%  are more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure.

Learn more about the impact of senior food insecurity.

Over the last 5 years, the Food Bank has seen consistent growth in the number of seniors served through the Food Share program. In fact, the number of seniors visiting Food Share has increased nearly 25% in five years. As more baby boomers retire, the Food Bank expects the trend to continue. In addition to providing food for more seniors through the Food Share program, the Food Bank has been looking for other ways to address senior food insecurity. The partnership with VOA aligns well with the Food Bank’s goal to meet the needs of seniors.

Over the next 12 months, the Food Bank anticipates preparing 500 meals per week. Based on population projections and increased participation, by 2020 the Food Bank intends to grow this program by 20%. The twenty-year program goal is to serve over 800 meals per week to meet the increasing needs of seniors.

 

Program LaunchVOA Senior Meals

In preparation for the new program, the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen Chef, Justin Kruger, spent the last few weeks meeting with participants to learn more about the types of foods they would like to see on the menu. Kruger looks forward to developing crowd-pleasing menus. Overall, his goal is to increase program participation by offering meals that guests look forward to each week.

To celebrate the new partnership and kick off the new menu, each VOA site is hosting a party complete with raffle prizes, music, and games led by students from Rocky Mountain High School. With the kick off parties, VOA is hoping to attract new guests and bring back others who had stopped attending over the years.

VOA meal sites are open to anyone 60 years of age or older for a suggested donation of $2.50, however, no one is turned away. Meals are offered various weekdays at 12 noon at sites in Fort Collins, Loveland, Bellevue and Wellington. See complete details.

To ensure no senior is hungry, the Food Bank needs your support. Find out how you can get involved. With your help, we can ensure the well-being of every senior in our community.

 

Dohn Construction Raises $15,000 for Food Bank for Larimer County

On Friday, August 19, 2016, Dohn Construction hosted its 6th Annual Charity Golf Tournament, raising $15,250 for the Food Bank for Larimer County’s children’s programs. The tournament was held at Pelican Lakes Golf Course and Country Club in Windsor, CO and boasted 144 participants representing 34 Northern Colorado construction and architecture companies.

Dohn Construction President Doug Dohn explains, “Food scarcity is a growing issue for Larimer County’s youth, leading to poor health and performance in school. I’m happy this donation will help the Food Bank in offering kids nutritious meals. The golf tournament is one of the highlights of my year because I love seeing industry leaders come together for a great cause.”Dohn Construction’s annual golf tournament raises funds for a different area charity each year.

A late-afternoon thunderstorm ended the 2016 tournament early, leaving no winner to take home the top prize. However, the event continued to raise funds through a silent auction and games throughout the course. Silent auction items and raffle prizes were donated by 33 area businesses.

Kids Cafe Summer Wrap Up

As summer ends and we all prepare for the back-to-school rush Food Bank for Larimer County gets ready for a change in seasons as well. Kids Cafe summer locations are closed for the year and served over 30,000 meals to children in need in Larimer County.

Our kitchen does not get much of a break as they are back in there putting food together for the school year starting August 22. Food Bank for Larimer County collaborates with Poudre and Thompson School Districts to provide after school snacks for students that are at risk of going hungry. Schools that have 50% or more of a population of students that qualify for reduced and free lunches are enrolled in the program. Kids Café snacks help provide kids with the fuel they need to thrive and succeed.

“Many kids come to school hungry and have not eaten all weekend or since the day before.” Explains Liz Donovan, Nutrition and Programs Manager “By offering snacks to these children, we can ensure that their school day provides all the resources they need beyond basic classroom needs.” Snacks are made shelf-stable and nutritiously dense to provide the best resources for kids in need.

Along with Kids Cafe snacks, we also work to provide weekend resources for kids in need. Those that are homeless or near homelessness are given packs of shelf-stable food that they can take home for the weekend. Packs include things like peanut butter and dry cereals to feed kids while they are away from schools, preventing kids from missing vital nutrients and providing the ability to flourish.

Though a few skipped meals may not seem all-around detrimental, research has shown that kids who regularly skip meals tend to miss school more often and are sick more often because they lack nutrients to keep their immune system strong.  Children that are food-insecure are far more likely to end up hospitalized and have chronic health problems. For these children it is more common to have oral problems and an overall poorer quality of life, which can cause more issues with their engagement in and out of the classroom. This can cause behavioral issues such as aggression, hyperactivity, fighting, anxiety, mood swings, and bullying.

As we continue our efforts to expand our programs and serve more kids, will you join us and help guarantee food for our children in need? LEARN MORE or DONATE.

Feeding Your Child’s Brain

The beginning of another school year is just around the corner.  Now is the time to start planning how to prepare nutritious meals and snacks for your kids.  The brain requires a tremendous amount of energy to function.  Children learn best when their brains and bodies are in a nourished state. 

Read on to find tasty “brain foods” for children and the nutrients they contain.

Read more

Need Rises in Larimer County

July 2016 was a record-breaking month for Food Bank for Larimer County. From April to June we supported 50,000 household visits, breaking a previous record set in 2012 at the end of the great recession. The number of times guests visit Food Share has also increased from 2.95 visits a month in 2010, to 3.81 visits a month in April-June 2016.

The increased need also has required increased efforts to source and redistribute more food. In 2012, we distributed around 1.5 million pounds of food in April-June. In 2016, we distributed 2.04 million pounds in the last quarter. The continued growth in service means we are reaching warehouse storage capacity and putting a greater-than-ever strain on existing resources.

The future is always uncertain, but based on State Demographers projections, we expect to see continued growth in the need for our services. By 2035, the population of Larimer County is projected to reach 450,000, while the number of individuals eligible for Food Bank programs could climb to nearly 120,000. To prepare, we are working on several new initiatives that will be announced in the coming months, including a new partnership with Volunteers of America to increase meal service and potentially fresh food access for seniors. Please keep in touch on social media and through this newsletter for the latest information.

Our vision is a hunger-free Larimer County and we hope that as the population increases we can keep up with the demand and help all people in need through innovative solutions. We hope you will join us as we continue our work to ensure no one in our community goes hungry.

Hungry Kids in Larimer County

Larimer County is a beautiful place to live.  Just below the foothills, Larimer County is one of the best agricultural locations in the state.  Surrounded by farms of various sizes, growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, it is hard to imagine that Larimer County has any hungry families.  Yet 14% of Larimer County residents live below the poverty level and 33% of children qualify for free & reduced school lunches.

The cause of hunger is usually poverty.  There are a significant number of families that live in the grey area, making too much money to qualify for aid and assistance programs yet, cannot afford to feed their families due to the high cost of living in Larimer County.

The Food Bank for Larimer County is dedicated to ending childhood hunger.  Over 30% of the food distributed by our Food Share program is provided to children in our community.  In addition, our Child Nutrition programs focus on providing meals and snacks to children during the summer months when school is out as well as during the school year.

For a full description of the programs available to children click here

What makes our Child Nutrition programs unique?  Many people may not know this, but the Food Bank has a fully functioning kitchen with a volunteer force of 20 people a day.  Volunteers make it not only possible, but also more cost effective to prepare meals and snacks from scratch.

“Scratch cooking is what defines our program”. –Mike DeBonte, Kitchen Supervisor

According to Kitchen Supervisor, Mike DeBonte, the Food Bank has been able to expand the number of Kids Cafe sites and children served due to savings generated by scratch cooking.  Not only is the food more cost effective, but also more nutritious.  Cooking meals and snacks in-house allows for more control over added sugar, salt and fat.  For example, muffins are made by substituting some sugar and fat with sugar-free applesauce.  Adding applesauce adds more flavor, fiber, moisture and sweetness to the muffins without adding more sugar and oil.  Scratch cooking isn’t just reserved for baked goods, even the sauces and salad dressings are made in-house.  Making ranch dressing from scratch allows the kitchen to again control the sugar and oil to produce a superior product in both taste and nutrition.

The Food Bank kitchen also utilizes fresh produce whenever possible.  Menus are changed and adapted based on the fresh produce available to the kitchen.  Another way they are encouraging kids to eat their vegetables is by incorporating veggies into the main meal.  If veggies are incorporated into the meal instead of on the side, kids are more likely to give them a try.  The food has been well received by the children served at Kids Cafe sites.  Menus and meals are developed with kids in mind and staff are also receptive to feedback and make changes when menu items aren’t well received.

Scratch cooking makes sense from every angle, it is cost effective, reduces packaging and waste, is additive and preservative free, and contains fresh wholesome ingredients for better nutrition.  Give it a try in your kitchen today!

“Thank you for the awesome food that fueled our night!” –Michelle

“Thank you for all the delicious, healthy food you provided!” –Brianna

“Thank you! Keep the black bean quesadillas coming!” – Liz

Kids Cafe Fights Summer Hunger

This summer, Food Bank for Larimer County’s Kids Cafe is providing free summer meals in Fort Collins, Loveland, Wellington and Estes Park. The Food Bank plans to serve 56,000 meals during June, July and August. Every day in June the Community Kitchen produced:

  • 400 snacks for three locations,
  • 970 lunches for twelve locations,
  • and 150 breakfasts for two locations.

Summer meals give children a chance to access good meals and to try new things that are healthy and tasty.

“Chili Hoagies are a big hit” said Justin Kruger, Food Bank Executive Chef and Community Kitchen Manager, “the spicy chicken taco was very popular on Wednesday.  Our varieties of baked taquitos are all well liked.  The cinnamon sugar tortilla roll-up has been a big breakfast hit.” Justin runs kitchen operations along with Mike DeBonte.

Liz Donovan, Food Bank Programs Manager and registered dietitian, oversees the planning and production of foods every week. All meals and snacks meet or exceed USDA guidelines. Meals are prepared fresh in the Kids Cafe kitchen by volunteers under the supervision of Food Bank staff.

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