Community Food Share

LOUISVILLE – With holidays around the corner, food is on the brain: family feasts, Thanksgiving dinner, holiday parties and treats. But for many people, just getting enough to eat on a daily basis is a struggle.

That’s why for the past 32 years, Community Food Share has provided food assistance in Boulder and Broomfield counties. With a new headquarters and warehouse in Louisville, the nonprofit is poised to feed more people than ever.
“Our primary mission is to make sure no one in our community goes hungry,” said Jim Baldwin, chief executive of Community Food Share. “Unfortunately, there is a segment of our population who are in need of additional food assistance.”

It might not be the segment you think. Although homeless and unemployed individuals make up a small percentage of those receiving assistance, Baldwin said, the vast majority are working families with low incomes.

According to the most recent census data, approximately 56,000 individuals in the area live below 130 percent of the poverty line – the same metric used to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) and the free-lunch program.

“That’s like a family of four making $30,000 or less a year,” Baldwin said. “After paying rent, utilities and other bills, they just don’t have enough resources to put food on the table.”

Community Food Share distributes food though a network of 48 nonprofit agencies in Boulder and Broomfield counties, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, emergency assistance programs, churches, schools and centers that serve the mentally ill, disabled citizens, at-risk youth and low-income working families.

Although some food banks charge agencies a handling fee to deliver food, CFS does not.

“That means we have to raise a little more money,” Baldwin said. “But they’re basically the safety net of our community, and we’re here to support them.”

The nonprofit also offers two direct-service programs: Elder Share, which serves the area’s low-income senior population, and Feeding Families, which serves families that have a child on the free lunch program within the Boulder Valley or St. Vrain Valley school districts.

CFS gets its food from a variety of sources. About 20 percent comes from Feeding America, The Nation’s Food Bank Network, through which the organization receives food from corporate donors such as Kraft and Kellogg’s. Food also is donated by local companies, including the area’s Walmart superstores, Whole Foods, King Soopers, Safeway, Munson Farms and WhiteWave Foods. CFS also distributes U.S. Department of Agriculture food through the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Food drives such as the upcoming Let’s Bag Hunger (Nov. 17-27 in Boulder) and Hunger Hurts the Whole Community (April in Longmont) get the community involved, and financial donations round things out by allowing CFS to purchase food when supplies run low and to fund operations.

CFS employs 20 paid staffers and uses three large refrigerated trucks to deliver food to distribution agencies and pick-up donations from food suppliers. The organization also works with approximately 2,500 volunteers, who log more than 36,000 volunteer hours every year.

“It’s a real testament to the kind of folks we have in our community,” Baldwin said.

That community also showed up to help when CFS recognized that it needed a larger building.

“We were simply out of space in our old facility,” Baldwin said. “We couldn’t be as organized as we wanted, there was no place to meet with people, we didn’t have room for more volunteers, and parking was a problem.”

Baldwin and his team started researching what they wanted in a new location and launched a capital campaign to start raising money for the move in 2010. Last year CFS took out a $3.5 million loan to purchase its new facility at 650 S. Taylor Ave. in Louisville. Then something amazing happened.

“A generous donor offered us a $2.5 million gift to pay off the loan if we could pay off the remaining $1 million by the end of the year, which we did with support from the community,” Baldwin said.

Renovations began in May and CFS moved into its new building – which at 68,000 square feet is more than triple the size of its former building in Niwot – on Aug. 1. That was not a moment too soon because September’s flooding drove many residents from their homes, leaving them with little access to food.

“If the flood had hit when we were still in the other facility, we would not have been able to step up like we did,” Baldwin said.

Because of its new, larger space, CFS was able to accept 380,000 more pounds of food in the six weeks after the flood than it took in during the same period the year before., which it used to provide assistance to flood victims through disaster centers and agencies in the affected areas.

Baldwin is quick to point out, however, that need doesn’t end when the waters recede. “As the holidays approach, we’ll continue to serve not just flood victims but our normal operations as well.”