Posts

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.

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.

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.

Food Bank Partners with Neighbor to Neighbor to Accomplish More

Neighbor 2 Neighbor and Food Bank PartnershipNeighbor to Neighbor (N2N) is a local, Larimer County nonprofit working towards affordable housing for the residents of Northern Colorado. Their goal is to help individuals move from homelessness to homeownership by providing sustainable housing, supportive services, and education to the Larimer County community. Their various programs do many things to help our community including assisting over 1,000 people apply for and receive down payment assistance, first month’s rent and deposit assistance, and emergency home funding.

Stephanie Alley is the Resident Services Coordinator, specializing in welcoming new residents, evaluating needs, and helping them achieve their personal goals. She and her team provide a wide variety of classes and services to the N2N residents including a youth entrepreneur program that teaches N2N children that they have earning potential and can break the cycle of poverty. Children create art which is turned into greeting cards that are sold at gift shops in Fort Collins. The proceeds go directly into the children’s own bank account to help them learn the ins and outs of business.

Alley visits the Food Bank for Larimer County every morning to pick up snacks, juice boxes, fruit, and whatever else is available. She takes the food back to her office at Neighbor to Neighbor where residents live in a 68 unit complex. She hands the food and snacks out to the kids as they leave for school. Often families living at the N2N complex do not have enough extra food to send their kids to school with something for snack time; they already rely on the free and reduced food programs and without N2N and the Food Bank’s partnership, these children likely spend a good part of the day hungry.

When asked what her favorite part of the job is, Alley replied, “The kiddos. I love the kids, they are great humans. I just love seeing what they already hope to be in the future. They don’t see themselves as low income; they have the same hopes and dreams as all the other kids do. They are so inspirational and I love that I get to work with them.”

Neighbor to Neighbor and Food Bank PartnershipThe Food Bank and N2N’s partnership came full circle this summer when Neighbor to Neighbor participated in the Plant it Forward program by growing extra produce in the N2N community garden to donate back the Food Bank. Alley commented on the program by saying, “it’s a good way for us to give back because our clients use the Food Bank and I get snacks for the kids, so the food comes back around.”

By working with and partnering with other great area organizations such as Neighbor to Neighbor, we are better able to address the many needs of our friends and neighbors 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.

Kids Cafe Volunteers

Volunteering has many faces here at Food Bank for Larimer County. Some of our volunteers choose to cook, while others sort. Some choose to grow food to donate. Others choose to help with our events. We have many spots at the Food Bank for volunteers, but by far, the most popular choice is to volunteer with Kids Cafe.
Not only do Kids Cafe Volunteers directly have a hand in making sure children can eat this summer, but they have a hand in directly influencing the future of our community. By providing children nutritious and plentiful meals we help children do better in school along with other activities and we assist in keeping children healthy and strong.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” explains Tom Inscho. “And we have a lot of fun doing it. In life, we connect the dots to many things happening in the world. In my working life and my career there were many dots, seven or eight dots, if I do this then this will happen, and so on, to where eventually something good happens. In this, it is like one dot. If I do this, kids eat today.” Inscho is part of a group of volunteers that work in the kitchen, for Kids Cafe, every Wednesday at 10am. “It’s very satisfying to know that I can do something and it turns into something good.”
“I’ve been doing this every week for three years” Cynthia Bush said “I don’t know if other groups have as much fun as us we do, but it’s great. We laugh, we play music, we catch up and we are helping children.” Bush was previously a schoolteacher and witnessed firsthand the need for Kids Cafe in the Larimer County community. Today, with her group of friends on Wednesday, she is able to support that program.
For children who are food insecure many things are more difficult than for children who have consistent and healthy food at home. Many children from food insecure households have a harder time in school due to frequent illness-related absences or the inability to focus on learning. In the summer, when free and reduced school lunches are not available, kids can go days without a meal. If parents are able to purchase food, due to income restrictions, they will often choose cheaper and less-healthy food for children, which can lead to higher rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. Our Kids Cafe provides healthy meals to help children thrive in the summer.
Volunteers like Tom and Cynthia are the hearts and hands of Kids Cafe. With their help, each year, our Kids Cafe provides over 165,000 healthy meals and snacks. Our work would not be possible without the help of our fantastic and dedicated volunteers!
To learn more about volunteering at the Food Bank, please contact BenMensch at bmensch@foodbanklarimer.org or visit our website: foodbanklarimer.org/volunteer/