Dedicated to Ensuring No Coloradan Goes Hungry
BY ELLIE AGAR
Many of us have fond memories of a meal shared with friends or a favorite family recipe. Good food is a key part of community and as Coloradans, we pride ourselves on producing delicious fruits, vegetables and specialty items. Additionally, having enough food supports the foundation for optimal health and well-being throughout our lives. Nutritious food helps babies develop, gives kids the energy to excel in school, reduces the risk of chronic disease in adults, and keeps older adults stable and independent.
Yet, in tens of thousands of homes across Colorado, our neighbors strive for a brighter future but struggle to make ends meet, whether due to a minimum-wage job, health issue, job loss or another misfortune. Parents go without to feed their children. Too many kids start the school day hungry, unable to focus on learning. And, after a lifetime of working, Colorado older adults are left to fend for themselves and face the question: Do I buy needed medication or food?
Hunger Free Colorado responds to this need by connecting families and individuals to food resources and fueling change in systems, policies, and social views, so no Coloradan goes hungry. The organization was launched in 2009 and brings a unified, statewide voice to the issue and solutions surrounding hunger, with a goal to ensure all Coloradans have access to affordable, nutritious food.
Last year, Hunger Free Colorado connected nearly 20,000 Coloradans to food resources via a statewide hotline and in person through community outreach services. Hunger Free Colorado’s food navigators help callers and community members connect with local resources such as food pantries or meal sites, saving time and worry in the quest to find food. Food navigators also have extensive experience helping individuals apply for federal nutrition programs, such as food stamps, a program federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the National School Lunch Program.
One of Hunger Free Colorado’s significant accomplishments involved streamlining access to school breakfast for children whose families qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program. Hunger Free Colorado helped gain support for state legislation that ensures breakfast is offered to more students after the school day begins in schools across Colorado. Studies show kids who receive breakfast at school perform better in math, vocabulary and other demanding mental tasks, and handle frustration better. As a result of this legislation, Colorado moved from 44th in the nation for school breakfast participation to 14th. In the Wash Park area, almost 240,000 breakfasts were served at 15 different schools just last year.
Hunger Free Colorado also launched the Colorado Food Pantry Network in 2015 and worked closely with the state legislature to secure $500,000 in the state budget for food pantries and food banks to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and other Colorado Proud products starting in 2018.
“Ending hunger in Colorado has to be a collaborative effort. Food pantries cannot do the work we do without financial resources, so it’s encouraging to see our legislators band together and commit to the idea that no Coloradan should be hungry,” said Lyndsey Williams, Director of La Puente’s Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley. “Further, we’re very excited that these funds will be used to purchase food from local producers. When someone eats locally, they’re doing a favor for themselves and for their community’s economy.”
Hunger Free Colorado also works to raise awareness about hunger through projects like Hunger Through My Lens, an advocacy project that provides real-life experts – Coloradans who have experienced hunger – a platform to share their personal stories and experiences about how hunger has impacted their lives, families, and communities using photos, videos and other forms of art.
While much has been accomplished, there is more to be done to eliminate barriers to the access of affordable nutritious food, so all Coloradans can thrive and reach their full potential.
To support Hunger Free Colorado, visit www.hungerfreecolorado.org and click on the donate button or Venmo @HungerFree-Colorado. If you need assistance with food resources or would like to find a local food pantry to support, call Hunger Free Colorado’s Food Resource Hotline at 855-855-4626.