DENVER (CBS4)– The coronavirus pandemic is beginning to stress the system in place that keeps thousands of Coloradans from going hungry. The Food Bank of the Rockies is hoping people will donate money and time to keep food on the plates of families across the state.
“We’re having to turn to different operational models and we’re seeing a dramatic need in our community unlike we’ve ever seen every before,” said Erin Pulling, the CEO of Food Bank of the Rockies. “Especially now with the school closures and so many people who are depending on their wages to feed their families. People are now forced with deciding, ‘Do I stay home and take care of my kids, or do I go to work and earn a pay check so I can buy groceries?’”
The Food Bank is the warehouse and distribution center that provides food to 700 food pantries around Colorado and Wyoming. In a normal year they help feed 500,000 people. That number is expected to increase dramatically this year.
“This epidemic is the culmination of so many issues that are really hitting Food Bank of the Rockies,” Pulling said. “We’re seeing an unprecedented need. We’re also seeing because so many people have been at King Soopers and at the stores buying up the shelves, that some of our retail partners are coming back without the quantity of food.”
Right now, there’s a reserve of about a month’s worth of food. The food bank has plans to meet the demand by doubling the quantity of normal shipments in the coming days. New procedures are hoping to cut down on person-to-person contact while those shipments reach unprecedented levels.
Money and volunteers are needed the most right now. Even $1 can be turned into four meals.
“We depend on financial contributions from our community to distribute food. With economic uncertainty right now, if we don’t increase the level of donations, not just maintain but increase, we’re not going to be able to provide the needs in our community right now,” Pulling said.
Food donations aren’t a priority because they can actually tax the systems in place at the food bank.
“That takes us a lot of people power, to go through those canned goods, to clean, sanitize, and distribute those. What are so much more impactful are financial gifts,” Pulling said.
New procedures for volunteers are being put in place to keep them safe, with smaller groups being spaced farther apart.
There’s also concern a long-term economic downturn could keep the need at some pantries high for an extended period of time, further pressuring the food bank and its resources.
“What’s not going to correct itself immediately is people’s incomes. There are so many people in our community depending on every single paycheck and now they’re going without,” Pulling said.
LINK: Food Bank of the Rockies
Additional Information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
- Practice good hygiene. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. In the absence of soap and water, use hand-sanitizer; use your elbow or sleeve to cover coughs and sneezes
- Stay home if you’re sick; keep your children home if they are sick. The illness can last for many days so make preparations now to work from home if possible.
- We advise Coloradans to always be prepared for an emergency– like a large snowstorm– and have a plan for your family. Make sure to have 72 hours of key supplies on hand like medications, infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc. FEMA guidance for pre-pandemic COVID-19 preparedness is available on Ready.gov.
- Stay informed with reliable, up-to-date information. People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019, can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 or email COHELP@RMPDC.org, for answers in English and Spanish (Español), Mandarin (普通话), and more.