By Eve HershWith grocery bags in hand, people gather around the Lyons Community Church on Wednesday afternoons, waiting to get their free groceries. These Lyons locals are some of the many Boulder County residents who often face the hard decision of choosing between heating their homes and feeding their families. Unfortunately, support for these people in the form of donations to food pantries seems to be dwindling, and the Lyons Community Food Pantry has felt the slump.
“Just in the last couple weeks we haven’t seen as much,” reported Nancy Reckling, co-coordinator of the Lyons food bank.
In November, Colorado food banks reported shortfalls in supplies and donations. Food programs are getting even fewer donations now that the holiday season has come to a close. Furthermore, this slowdown coincides with increased expectation. In 2011, food banks nationwide experienced a demand that far surpassed what they were able to provide. Boulder County saw a doubling in the amount of households receiving food stamps from 2008 to 2011. With record-setting demand for food assistance, food banks around the county are scrambling to make ends meet.
Reckling said that one of the main challenges for the Lyons Community Food Pantry is providing items that meet dietary restrictions. But so far the local programs have been able to ease the hunger of those who most need it—while also allowing clients to “shop” for the groceries they most want. “We take baby steps, we used to provide pre-packed boxes for people, and now we set up tables with the food items on them, so people can go through with a volunteer to pick out what they want and what they can use,” explained Reckling.
Lyons Community Food Pantry benefits from community donations, but gets the bulk of its support from Community Food Share, Boulder and Broomfield Counties’ food bank. Through fundraisers, donations, and corporate partnerships, CFS distributes food to over 50 member agencies in Boulder County and provides 7 million meals annually. With 12% of Boulder County’s population living below the poverty line—that’s one in eight people—the demand on these local food agencies is high.
The Lyons pantry is no exception. Reckling observed an increase in the demand for food assistance in the last year—they now serve about 36 households on a weekly basis.
The economic picture may be grim, but groups throughout Boulder County have rallied to help ease local hunger. This community generosity could alleviate some of the suffering that may be inevitable with the snowy months ahead.
In spite of a lull in donations, Colorado’s food insecurity levels (the inability to get adequate access to food), have remained slightly below the national average. The USDA reports Colorado’s food insecurity level at 13.4%,while the national level is 14.5%. The combined efforts of food assistance programs and generous Coloradoans are no doubt responsible for keeping the averages lower than some other parts of the country, but the state still has a long way to go before fully alleviating hunger.
How You Can Help:
The Lyons Community Food Pantry will continue providing its visitors with weekly groceries every Wednesday. They welcome any donation, and are especially grateful for cash, cereal, canned vegetables, canned tomato products, peanut butter, jelly, diapers, and baby wipes. They are located at 350 Main Street. You can visit http://www.lyonscommunitychurch.com/outreach or call (303) 823-6245 for more information.
Community Food Share’s next food drive, “Hunger Hurts the Whole Community,” will begin April 4 and run through April 15. Donations can be made at St. Vrain Market in Lyons.
Community Food Share provides direct assistance for emergency situations by offering pre-packed boxes. The boxes are available at the CFS warehouse and government buildings. Visit www.communityfoodshare.org to learn more about Community Food Share’s services, fundraisers and upcoming events.
Seniors can also sign up for hot meals offered at the Walter Self Senior Center at 5 p.m. on Mondays. These free weekly meals are organized by local churches in order to meet the needs of seniors living on fixed incomes.
For the 10th year in a row, Niwot High School’s Swashbucklers group will continue its commitment to Community Food Share through their benefit production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” later this month. The group will donate its proceeds to CFS. You can see the performance February 24 and 25, at 7 p.m., or February 26 at 2 p.m., at the Xilinx Retreat Center, 3100 Logic Drive in Longmont. Tickets are $5 at the door.