Hunger Next Door

Affluent Boulder County is home to a growing number of families suffering from food insecurity

Courtesy: Sister Carmen

Humans pay attention to what they see in front of them. We observe homeless people at intersections, so we worry about a solution to the homeless “problem.”  

If we put all the people in Boulder County who are hungry or malnourished in one place, it would be a city with a population larger than Lafayette. According to Community Foodshare, there are about 34,000 Boulder County residents currently unsure how they will afford food for their families. That “city” where every single person is worried about food access includes at least 6,400 kids, single moms and elderly residents. 

Traditionally, we focus on feeding turkey dinners in November and December, but manage to forget about these same people from January through October. 

“I think there’s this idea that there are no food insecurity needs in Boulder County, that everything is rosy,” says Suzanne Crawford, CEO of Lafayette’s Sister Carmen Community Center.

Sister Carmen is a nonprofit organization offering critical resources ranging from rent assistance to a large food bank. It served an average of 5,000 to 6,000 individuals in East Boulder County annually before the pandemic. That number jumped to about 8,000 last year, according to Crawford.

The City of Boulder’s food tax rebate program has received the most applications since 2019, according to City officials. Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) in Boulder reports that visits to its food bank have increased by 60% in the past half-year alone.

“Food insecurity has definitely gotten worse in the past year, and it’s really quite concerning. Last year, we saw a 28 percent increase in the number of households seeking food assistance,” she says, adding that nearly half of those households are coming back to Sister Carmen’s food bank more often.  

Crawford’s list of the reasons local food insecurity has worsened includes the end of pandemic-related extended SNAP (food stamps) and enhanced child tax credits, decreased emergency rental assistance leading to increased evictions, and higher costs locally for rent, food and childcare. Local agencies are still helping families displaced by the Marshall Fire.

“We are seeing a tremendous number of single parents and seniors,” she says. “Families that were struggling already haven’t had a chance to get back on their feet.” 

At the same time, contributions in Boulder County have actually decreased in the past year.

“The donations during food drives, including financial donations, are generally down at all the local food banks,” Crawford says. “Part of it is that other people are struggling to pay bills and can’t afford to donate.”

Consider giving to one of the following organizations on Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 5. You can also volunteer for these nonprofit organizations or organize a food drive at your business, club, church or school. 

Boulder County Food Banks

Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA), Boulder:

Sister Carmen Community Center, Lafayette, Louisville and Erie:

Boulder Food Rescue, Boulder:

Harvest of Hope Pantry, Boulder:

Community Food Share, Boulder and Broomfield counties:

Nederland Food Pantry, Nederland and mountain communities:

OUR Center, Longmont:

LEAF, Lyons and neighboring areas:

Taste of the Week: Fine fish and chips 

I almost never order fish and chips at a restaurant because it is so rarely prepared and served properly. The fish has to be fresh. The coating cannot be too thick and bready. It’s not a corn dog. The fish has to be fried to order in good oil and, most critically, served steaming hot with a pile of great fries. 

Having worked in Boulder restaurants and stood over a boiling vat of oil, I know how hard it is to pull off this meal. 

Lunching recently on the patio with a friend at Lucky’s Bakehouse Cafe in North Boulder, I took the leap of culinary faith and was rewarded with hot-to-the-table, lightly beer-battered Alaskan cod. I bit into the filets and inhaled the savory steam. The house-cut shoestring fries were just right. I dipped both in thick green goddess dressing and a side order of Hollandaise. Tart, crunchy kale and cabbage salad balanced it out. 

My friend enjoyed an exceptional vegetable hash including garbanzos, roasted Brussels sprouts, potatoes and greens with eggs over easy. 

It was a meal to be thankful for.

Seasons Eatings: Skip the eggnog

One sure sign of the season is the appearance of Morning Fresh Dairy Farm Root Beer Float. The Bellvue creamery offers a creamy glass bottled dream that truly tastes like its namesake crafted with milk, cream, sugar and a superior root beer extract from CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing. I found it at Sprouts Markets. Paired with a locally distilled spirit, it’s better than eggnog.

Local Food News: Boulder’s Fine Dining Star

  • Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food and Wine and Pizzeria Alberico has been named one of the 50 most powerful people in American fine dining for 2023 by the Robb Report. 
  • Born in Boulder in 1996, Big Daddy Bagels continues to expand, recently opening its fifth location in Lakewood.
  • C Bar, a contemporary cocktail bar, and C Burger at 921 Pearl St., Boulder are coming in 2024  
  • Ana’s Norwegian Bakeri in Centennial, has opened a second shop on Denver’s 16th Street Mall. Try the terrific skoleboller breakfast buns and raisin buns. 

A Toast to Boulder Whiskey 

Noting that Colorado is now home to more than 60 craft distilleries, Forbes has included some great Colorado whiskies in its Holiday Gift Guide 2023 including Laws Whiskey House Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Old Elk Double Wheat Straight Whiskey. Boulder Spirits is applauded for its American Single Malt Whiskey Bottled in Bond, “a rich, creamy, intensely flavored whiskey with dark molasses, cooked cereal, dried dark fruit, cocoa, and some red fruit notes of raspberry and cherry.”

Words to Chew On: Zen of Flavor

“Flavor is not actually in food; any more than redness is in a rose or yellow in the sun. It is a fabrication of our brains. … Faces fade when you haven’t seen them in a while, while flavors and smells have a way of lodging themselves in indelibly.” – From First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson. 

John Lehndorff is the former Dining Critic of the Rocky Mountain News. He hosts Radio Nibbles and Kitchen Table Talk on KGNU-FM. Comments: [email protected]


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