DDPHE: 33% of Denver’s population faces food insecurity

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Demand is high and these facilities face the same staff shortages as other industries.

DENVER – Food insecurity in Denver has tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE).

The DDPHE said 33% of Denver’s total population now face food insecurity, up from around 11% before the pandemic. These statistics come from the Hunger Free Colorado biannual food security survey conducted in April 2021.

Food insecurity means many things, including not having reliable access to nutritious foods, being able to consistently put healthy foods on the table, or having to cut back or skip meals because there is no not enough money to buy more food.

The need is reflected in places like Feeding Denver’s Hungry. It’s a free grocery store that typically has 450 locations open to families per month. Founder and executive director Jim Scharper said the waiting list now stands at 2,000.

“Families are trying to get help,” he said. “There is not much we can do. ”

A waitlist like this is new for Feeding Denver’s Hungry and the numbers are expected to stay high.

“We distribute enough food each day for almost 200,000 meals,” said Erin Pulling, president and CEO of the Food Bank of the Rockies.

There is a complex list of factors as to why this happens.

“Realized rent has skyrocketed in Denver,” Scharper said. “Many working families find it difficult to pay more than the mortgage, housing or rent, and there is no more money for food.”

Pulling added that the pandemic presented the perfect storm for food banks.

“Supply chain challenges, more expensive food, an inability to return to work and complications with children at home and therefore a higher need,” she explained.

Pulling also mentioned the impacts of ending some federal aid.

“The Food Bank in the Rockies has distributed more food in the past year and a half than we’ve ever had in our 43-year history,” Pulling said.

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Then food banks also face the same problems as many other businesses.

“We only have a certain amount of funds to work with and the volunteer base is limited,” Scharper said. “We have a lot of great volunteers here, but we could definitely use more so that we can open more days of the week.”

Scharper said that at the start of the pandemic, many people volunteered when they were out of work, but the number declined as people returned to work.

“We are experiencing the same type of staff shortage as other companies,” Pulling said. “Fortunately, we have a reliable workforce.”

She refers to a strong group of volunteers who have contributed to the increase in demand.

Feeding Denver’s Hungry has seen more families with children pass through their facility. The Food Bank in the Rockies said it was seeing more and more people asking for food assistance for the first time during the pandemic.

Earlier this week, the city approved a third round of funding through federal dollars to help feed more people. Nonprofits can claim a portion of that $ 3 million by September 28.

The third round of funding is in addition to the $ 2.9 million set aside to meet food needs since 2020.

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