Already depleted food banks are gearing up for the busy holiday season

GREELEY, CO — Volunteers on Wednesday quickly delivered food to those in Greeley who showed up at the Weld Food Bank for its emergency food program.

“They were getting a healthy assortment of products. We had some meat. We also have a box of some sturdy items packed to really help a family last a few days,” said Weston Edmonds of the Weld Food Bank.

There are many new faces reaching out for help, according to Edmonds. The food bank serves about 19,000 people a month — double what it served at this time last year and four times as many people as before the pandemic.

“They haven’t really needed this kind of help before. It’s not a situation they’re used to being in,” Edmonds said. “About 70% of the people who come here have a full-time adult in the household. They have a regular steady income. It’s just not enough.”

At the same time that SNAP distributions ended, food prices rose.

“There are some projections that show the cost of all food items is up about 5 percent from this time last year,” said Carla Maracchini, director of the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Food and Energy Assistance Division.

Maracini said it’s critical to provide programs for families to help supplement their budgets. CDHS will be closely monitoring the upcoming special legislative session.

“There is legislation that will be introduced that will give us the opportunity to start a new program,” Maracini said. “Children and youth who are enrolled in free and reduced-price lunch at a school participating in National School Lunch, for those who participate in SNAP, TANF, which is called Colorado Works here, or Medicaid, will be able to receive an additional benefit for help families access healthy food during the summer months.”

If approved by lawmakers, families could receive $40 per student per month while school is out, or $120 total.

“We have a Jan. 1 deadline with the USDA to indicate our intent to participate. We need both the authority and the administrative funding to launch this program to be successful for the summer of 2024,” Maracini said.

Many families will rely on local food banks to fill the gaps heading into the already busy holiday season.

“These families who are already struggling to put food on their tables every day, to add another $100, $150 to the food for this special meal is really hard on them,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds said right now, any donation or volunteer is a huge help. You can register for food assistance or donate to the Weld Food Bank at weldfoodbank.org.

If you need nutritional assistance, there are additional resources

The state also offers the following for those who may be affected by this change:

  • Roll over unused SNAP benefits to the next month. Unused benefits can remain on EBT cards for up to nine months. This could help cushion the impact of the benefit cuts.
  • Stock up on non-perishables now while you have the added benefits. (See tips for stocking your pantry in English or Spanish.)
  • Stretching of food ingredients and you plan to use them in more than one meal. This helps to save money and reduce food waste. (See tips on stretching ingredients in English or Spanish.)
  • Consider freezing produce so that fruits and vegetables can last longer. (See tips on freezing food in English or Spanish.)
  • See unit prices to compare similar products at the grocery store. (See price comparison tips in English or Spanish.)

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