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Northern Colorado Food Banks Prepare for High Demand Through 2021

Amanda Andrews

As the coronavirus pandemic causes a national surge in demand at food banks, some insiders speculate that demand could remain high long after lockdowns end.

Food insecurity analysis from Feeding America shows COVID-19 is creating more obstacles for populations already facing hunger while significantly increasing the number of people experiencing food insecurity in 2020.

Food banks in Northern Colorado find themselves in a balancing act between meeting the increased need with prioritizing volunteers' health and safety. Larimer County Food Bank CEO Amy Pezzani said they’ve had to cut operating hours since the pandemic began, but they're serving more people.

“Right now, during COVID, during this time of year, the need is almost greater than I’ve ever seen it,” Pezzani said.

The food bank serves Larimer County residents whose total monthly income falls under a certain threshold. Pezzani said compared to this time last year, they have seen a 41% increase in food distribution to other local nonprofits.

Local food banks typically see more community need around the winter as outdoor jobs end in the cooler weather. Stephanie Gausch, Weld County Food Bank's chief development officer, said they've had to realize meeting this demand is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.

“We’re eight months in and we realize that this is going to continue, we assume, for about the next two years,” Gausch said. “If we look at how the 2008 recession impacted folks here in Weld County, we had an increase in need then. It never went back to where it was previously, but the high increase did stay for a couple years after the recession.”

Both Weld and Larimer Food Banks are each operating an outdoor drive-through style food distribution. As a result, more money is going toward buying pre-packaged foods which are easier to store and distribute.

The greatest need among local food banks is volunteers, along with monetary and food donations to accommodate for cancelled food drives.

Instructions to donate are available on the Weld County Food Bank and Food Banks for Larimer County websites.

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  • The loss of jobs and wages amid the coronavirus pandemic are factors behind an uptick in food insecurity. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports 8% of adults in Colorado didn’t have enough to eat in July, while 12% said they didn’t have enough money to feed their children. State and federal programs can help, but residents are also using their gardens to support their neighbors in need.