By Makenzie O'Keefe

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Nonprofit food banks across the state are seeing an increase in the need for food assistance. The Action Center in Lakewood says 37% of the families they are helping now had never needed assistance before the coronavirus pandemic.

(credit: CBS)

“We’ve had about double the amount of families coming in, households coming in, for help than we had prior to the whole COVID-19 crisis,” explained Pam Brier, the Executive Director of the Action Center. “So we really needed to step up on our food recovery process.”

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Back in March, CBS4 covered a drive-thru food drive the Action Center held to stock their shelves in preparation of COVID-19. However, the demand they are seeing more than a month later is more than they had expected.

“We thought maybe we’d be in this for a few weeks and now are looking at potentially staying with this model of drive-thru all summer long,” Brier said.

(credit: CBS)

Since the COVID-19 crisis hit, nearly 40% of their clients are seeking food assistance for the first time. Brier said that’s because a lot of people’s hours have been cut at work, or they have lost their job.

“You hear in their voices — ‘I’ve never done this before. I’m not sure if I really even should be doing this, there’s probably people who need it more than I do,'” she explained. “And we’re trying to reassure them that that’s why we’re here. To help.”

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To keep up with the growing demand, the center is asking for community support to keep their shelves stocked. Brier said they also work with local grocery stores through a rescue food program, but donations and non-perishable goods are greatly needed.

“Every day we need to step up and give more and more of that out,” she said.

The Action Center hopes that those facing tough times will allow them to help lift the burden of food security, even if it’s uncomfortable to ask for help.

“Let us help you with your food right now,” she said. “Because that allows you to stretch your budget and then you can use your resources for important things like rent and paying other bills.”

The Action Center will be hosting their annual fundraiser virtually on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can find more information and register on their website. The Mile Hi Church will also be hosting a food donation drive to help The Action Center get more canned goods on their shelves. That food drive will take place on Thursday from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

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Makenzie O'Keefe