Drought cuts Weld Food Bank donations

GREELEY — The Weld Food Bank has received 385,000 fewer pounds of fresh produce than expected since July because of the drought.

The nonprofit had expected to receive 1.2 million pounds of fresh produce from Northern Colorado farmers from July through December, the first half of its fiscal year, executive director Bob O’Connor said Thursday. Its hope was to receive 2.5 million pounds of fresh produce this fiscal year.

“We’re going to be significantly down,” O’Connor said.

The lack of produce coming from farmers contending with lower yields has raised costs for the food bank. The nonprofit has responded by soliciting produce donations from farmers in California and Arizona, but has had to pay increased shipping costs as a consequence.

“We’re bringing in more produce from there than we normally had to to supplement the shortages in our own drought-stricken areas,” O’Connor said.

“One of our big onion donors is telling us they’re down 20-25 percent this year,” O’Connor said. “They’re not going to be able to help us the way they used to. To us, that’s major.”

O’Connor believes financial contributions have remained “fairly consistent,” but he said how much the food bank received in 2012 won’t be known until next year.

Meanwhile, demand for food from low-income families has remained “extremely high,” he said. The food bank serves more than 10,000 people as well as 104 nonprofit partners.

“Some of them are seeing their need go up some 25 percent,” he said. “We’re trying to supply that food to them.”

The looming “fiscal cliff” also threatens the food bank, as cuts to food-stamp programs will drive more people to seek help from the nonprofit, O’Connor said.

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