Ron Holtzschuh, right, hands a turkey to volunteer Elise McDonnell, carrying her 6-month-old baby, Emma McDonnell, Thursday during a turkey drive for the Larimer County Food Bank at the Orchards Shopping Center in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)
Over the past year, the need for food assistance and other forms of assistance has increased in Loveland, and local service groups have provided tips and advice on how residents can help as the holiday season approaches.
Both the Food Bank for Larimer County and the House of Neighborsel Service have seen increases in service needs over the past year, according to officials from both organizations, and have suggested ways to help the community.
Food Bank Increase for Larimer County
Amy Petzani, chief executive of the Food Bank, said that in the first 10 months of the year the organization had seen a 32 per cent increase in the number of clients served through its food share marketplace. Pezzani said most of that increase didn’t begin until March 2023, when the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, emergency distributions ended.
She said the extra money allocated about $90 per person per family, meaning a family of four would lose about $360 a month.
“You can’t just make $360,” she said. “So we’ve seen an increase, and that increase has just continued.”
But that need extends beyond those who come to receive food from the food bank. Pezzani said it also serves 120 other nonprofits in Larimer County that also work to feed those in need.
She added that while the Food Bank is still accepting a large amount of food donations, they are working to maintain critical funding to adequately serve all those in need. She said the Food Bank was able to continue providing the same amount of food to those in need after the state distributed $4 million in emergency funding to 245 Colorado food pantries earlier this summer.
Pezzani said the Food Bank is also working with similar organizations across the state to ensure they can continue to provide food to those in need, adding that it has been proven time and time again that the impact of quality food for all is significant.
“The value of providing not just food but nutritional food to our community cannot be understated,” she said.
Home of the local service increase
Like the Food Bank, House of Neighborly Service has seen a significant increase in the number of people using the resources it offers.
Cheryl Wong, assistant director of the nonprofit, said it has seen a 24 percent increase since last year.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase,” she said. “We haven’t had a slow period this year.”
Wong said this has also caused an increased need for volunteers and staff. She said one volunteer who normally only comes once a week came every day and the food pantry had to add two employees to handle the load.
“They literally couldn’t handle walking and picking up food and bits and pieces,” she said.
She also said HNS has seen a slight drop in donations, noting that the community as a whole has seen the impact of rising prices at the grocery store.
Cherri Houle, executive director of HNS, said the work the organization does is important to Loveland’s growing community because many newcomers may not have built a community to help them.
“Having (HNS) is like a community place where they can come,” she said. “We care, we listen, our caseworkers will connect you to the right resources. And in the end, they’ll give you something when you leave. They will give you food. They will give you clothes. They will give you useful resources. They will give you hope.
How residents can help
To continue to meet the needs of the public, the Food Bank and HNS have held or will hold food drives as the holiday season approaches to make sure there is enough food to go around.
That includes a Turkey Tour, which the Food Bank held Thursday in both Loveland and Fort Collins, encouraging residents to donate frozen turkeys, hams and chickens for the group to distribute to “neighbors in Larimer County,” according to an event release .
Kelsey Hammon, communications coordinator at the Food Bank, said it had reached its goal of receiving more than 4,600 turkeys as of Friday afternoon.
“We are extremely grateful to our community for their support,” she said in an email to the Reporter-Herald. “Thanks to their efforts, we will be able to provide food that will bring so many families together this Thanksgiving.”
Hammon said turkeys will also be accepted Monday at the Food Bank’s fresh food sharing locations in Loveland, 2600 N. Lincoln Ave., and Fort Collins, 1301 Blue Spruce Drive; these locations will be open from 10am to 3pm on Monday. She added that the Food Bank office at 5706 Wright Drive in Loveland will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday if people want to drop off donations there.
Pezzani said this event is the biggest they’ve done when it comes to soliciting donations. She added that with the turkeys, the Food Bank serves as a central hub and distributes them to the various nonprofits they work with, and when the community responds to the call for donations, it means a lot more than the Food Bank.
“When we can serve as a central hub for these community donations, our entire community as a whole benefits,” she said.
Similarly, HNS plans to hold several food drives through December, including one from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 9.
Wong said that while many in the community have held their own drives to help HNS, the staff knows they need a little more to ensure they have enough food for the holiday season.
“We’re really hoping this will get us through the Thanksgiving holiday and ready for December,” she said.
Outside of events like this, both Pezzani and Wong said donations are a great way to help the Food Bank and HNS, whether financial or nutritional.
Wong added that residents can donate clothing to HNS, especially winter items, as temperatures continue to drop as winter approaches.
“(It) is very important this time of year,” Houle said of the importance of donations to HNS. “We go through tons of food and sometimes we go through up to 1,000 clothes a day.”
Pezzani said those who question whether their help is needed should recognize that the Food Bank impacts a wide range of people — many who work hard but still need help, and others who they cannot work.
“These are really people who are doing all the things they should be doing and still struggling in the economy that we have,” she said.
But, Wong said, groups like these can’t do the job alone.
“We love and value our community so much,” she said. “This time of year is so wonderful because so many people are available. But there are many new people in the community and they need to know ways they can make an impact… where they live. And we need them. We need the community.”