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Despite Economic Recovery, Hunger Remains

Jessica Reeder
Creative Commons/Flickr

In Larimer County, one in ten residents has received assistance from the food bank in the past year. That may seem counter-intuitive, given that --by most measures -- the economy appears to be improving.Amy Pezzani, Executive Director of the Food Bank for Larimer County (FBLC), says one reason is that many people lost everything they had in the recession, and it's going to take more than just a few years to get back to where they were - if they ever do.

One positive sign is that they haven't seen an increase in clients for the past three months. But Pezzani notes they are still at all-time highs with around 13,000 people seeking assistance each month.

"Then of course we provide food to 80 other nonprofit organizations in Larimer county," she says. "So you add the number of people using those services, and the number is quite large as to who is experiencing hunger and food insecurity in Larimer County."

This year the FBLC is expanding its Kids Cafe summer meal program, which provides breakfast, lunch and snacks to children in low-income families. Those 12 sites will serve roughly 1,000 units of food per day.

The Feeding America Network released a study this week that finds 40,000 people in the county are at risk of hunger - and that number includes more than 11,000 children. Those figures aren't a surprise to Pezzani.

"We have had more organizations and groups come to the Food bank over the last year asking us for assistance -- for children, specifically -- than we have in the past," she says. "We're still experiencing high volume of children in need in our community, which is why the summer food program and providing meals at these locations is so important."

Pezzani says donations to the food bank have slowed down somewhat, which is typical as the economy starts to turn around.

Interview highlights...

On how the Kids Cafe program operates...

"We provide food to 12 locations, or will, this summer -- that’s an additional three sites over last summer throughout Larimer County. We partner with places like the Boys and Girls Clubs that already have children there and can’t provide a meal without our assistance. But we also seek out low-income communities, and we are certainly doing more of that this year.

So for instance, in Larimer County, like other areas throughout northern Colorado, there are mobile home communities and low-income housing communities where we are able to go in and drop the food off for kids in those communities, so they have a consistent and nutritious meal five days a week."

On how their work is different this year than last...

"Well, as far as donations go, we’re doing fine for this year but we have definitely seen donations start to slow down a little bit. It’s very typical for a nonprofit like ours to experience a surge during very, very bad times. And that is what happened, the community was very generous.

At the same time as that, we also are experiencing more seniors retiring without enough income to make ends meet. So we’re going to be seeing more seniors coming to us in the future.

So I think the message I want people to remember is that, even though the economy is improving, still one out of every 10 Larimer County residents needs food assistance."

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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