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Nonprofits  November 29, 2013

NewsMaker Q & A: Weld food bank seeks donors hungry to help

As a result of the flood that hit on Sept. 13, the Weld County Food Bank distributed 950,000 pounds of food – nearly double the amount distributed in September 2012. Now, entering what traditionally is its busiest time of year, the food bank is working with the business community to collect a record amount of donated food over the holiday season. We spoke with executive director Bob O’Connor to find out how.

Question: We’ve heard the needs of Weld County Food Bank are greater this year than in previous years. How big is the difference and why do you think there is greater need? 

Answer: We had a 41 percent increase in the number of turkeys and holiday food items this year. This is a significant challenge for the food bank, one we know we can meet with the support of our community.  The reasons for the increase in need are twofold. We want to make sure that no one who was affected by the flooding goes without a holiday meal. The food bank also worked this year to expand services to underserved areas of Weld County, and as a result we are feeding more families than ever.

Q: Your website says hunger is a reality for one in six Coloradans. Is it really that prevalent? And if so, how come we don’t hear more about it?

A: The amount of people in Weld County who are hungry is significant. There are approximately 35,000 individuals in Weld that will go hungry this year. The numbers are even higher for children, where one in four will experience hunger. But hunger is often silent. Mothers go without so their children can have dinner. Seniors have to choose between food or medications. We see the effects of hunger every day and we work hard to educate the community about the effects and what they can do to help.

Q: What are the biggest challenges the food bank will face this winter?

A: The holiday season is typically our busiest time at the food bank. But this year is different. The recent floods created an increased need for many families, so we have been in high gear since September. During the flooding, the community was generous and eager to help those in need. But we know that hunger is a year-round, silent epidemic and we hope our community will be able to continue to support our work and help us expand to meet the need in underserved and rural areas of the county.

Q: This will be your second year as executive director of the food bank. What has been the mark of your leadership so far?

A: My immediate focus was to determine if we were meeting the needs of our community and where service gaps may exist. To accomplish this we conducted a Community Needs Assessment. Those results became the lynchpin of our strategic plan. We were able to distribute 9.1 million pounds of food last fiscal year, a 10.5 percent increase from the previous year. The big difference was our outreach to areas in our county that have been previously underserved. Our newest program, the Mobile Food Pantry, is making a significant difference in filling the gap. In fact, in the last 11 months we were able to distribute more than 615,000 pounds of food to 13,819 households in areas that were previously underserved. In Hudson, 188 people waited for our truck to arrive in minus-4 degree temperatures.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are often out of reach for struggling families because the price is simply too high. Since 1980, the cost of fresh produce has increased by 40 percent, whereas processed foods have declined between 10 percent and 30 percent. So when faced with a limited budget, families are forced to choose the least expensive option. Now communities such as Hudson, Keenesburg, Milliken, Erie and Dacono receive fresh produce, dairy and other perishables on a regular basis.

Q: What are your goals as a food bank this holiday season and how can the local business community help you meet them?

A: As I mentioned, we saw a 41 percent increase in our holiday requests this year and we need help from the community to meet that goal. For every $1 donated to Weld Food Bank we can provide six meals. For more information on how to donate or to organize a food drive, you can go to www.weldfoodbank.org.

– Maggie Shafer

As a result of the flood that hit on Sept. 13, the Weld County Food Bank distributed 950,000 pounds of food – nearly double the amount distributed in September 2012. Now, entering what traditionally is its busiest time of year, the food bank is working with the business community to collect a record amount of donated food over the holiday season. We spoke with executive director Bob O’Connor to find out how.

Question: We’ve heard the needs of Weld County Food Bank are greater this year than in previous years. How big is the difference and why do you think there…

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