‘It’s not sustainable’

Rising hunger strains area food relief efforts

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A volunteer with Boulder Food Rescue prepares to pedal through the snow with a delivery. Credit: Michael Benko

When the federal government announced that COVID-boosted food assistance would end, Boulder County nonprofits knew things would get worse for the thousands of adults, families and seniors they serve. 

The extra payments temporarily dampened demand. But hunger has returned to the Front Range, even worse than before the pandemic. Low wages and the rising costs of living have put more people in need. 

“Pretty much anyone who works a service job in this area is also most likely a client of ours,” says Adi Wabisabi, president of Peak Abundance, parent organization of Nederland Food Pantry.

OUR Center, a Longmont nonprofit, had to start buying food because donations dried up. Meals on Wheels Boulder is spending almost three times as much each month on food as it did in 2022. Visits to Harvest of Hope’s food pantry rose 95% between January 2023 and January 2024, on top of a 40% increase the previous year. 

Under the mounting pressure, Marc Cowell, OUR Center executive director, said his and other organizations have discussed cutting back on services to stay financially solvent.

“The needs are through the roof,” Cowell says. “Our current path is not sustainable. There’s some tough decisions on the horizon.”

Indeed, starting April 1, Boulder-based EFAA will limit households to twice-monthly food bank visits, down from once weekly. The organization will also cap quantities of certain food items, according to Food Bank Manager Walter O’Toole and Executive Director Julie Van Domelen. 

“We are seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming to the food bank,” the pair wrote in response to emailed questions. “We are overwhelmed and running out of many food items at the end of each day.”

Here’s a list of the organizations trying to help — and how you can help them. 

A volunteer loads up fresh produce for distribution through Boulder Food Rescue.
Credit: Lou Creech

Boulder Food Rescue

What they do: Deliver donated food (primarily fruits and vegetables) to 38 affordable housing sites and preschools across town, primarily by bike. 

What they need: Money and volunteers. “For every $1 we raise, we distribute $5 worth of fruits and vegetables to people,” says co-director Hayden Dansky. Visit boulderfoodrescue.org/donate or boulderfoodrescue.org/volunteer.

There’s also a food rescue organization in Longmont. Visit longmontfoodrescue.org.

Community Food Share

What they do: Run an onsite food pantry at 650 S. Taylor Ave. in Louisville and mobile food pantries that travel to various community locations. CFS also provides food to other organizations, including some on this list.

What they need: Food and financial donations. Visit communityfoodshare.org/ways-to-give to learn more

EFAA

What they do: Operate an onsite food pantry, mobile food banks (including pet food!) and monthly grocery pickup.

What they need: Food (find a list at efaa.org/donate/food-goods), funding (give at efaa.org/donate/funds) and volunteers (email info@efaa.org).

Harvest of Hope

What they do: Operate a no-questions-asked food pantry in Boulder. Some others require bills or leases to prove residency, which can exclude unhoused individuals.

What they need: Money. According to Executive Director Chad Molter, “each dollar can translate into up to $8 worth of food.” Food: “Bulk sliced sandwich bread, milk/alternative milks, eggs and frozen meats are consistently in demand,” Molter says. Volunteers: Visit hopepantry.org/help.

LEAF

What they do: Among other things, LEAF operates a food pantry and Meals on Wheels in Lyons.

What they need: Money. LEAF needs $500,000 to finish renovating their new location. Give: bit.ly/donate-leaf

Courtesy Community Food Share Community Food Share volunteer Glen Strand ready to load food into a participant’s car during the food bank’s drive-through pantry in 2020.

Meals on Wheels Boulder

What they do: Deliver meals to residents of Boulder and Gunbarrel who cannot shop
or prepare their own meals.

What they need: Money and volunteers. 

Visit mowboulder.org/give.

Separate Meals on Wheels operate in Longmont (longmontmeals.org) Lyons (leaflyons.org/meals-on-wheels) and East Boulder County (Coal Creek Meals on Wheels covers Erie, Superior, Lafayette and Louisville: coalcreekmow.org)

OUR Center 

What they do: In addition to running a food bank, OUR Center offers breakfast Mondays through Fridays and lunch 365 days a year, with proof of residency.

What they need: Food (“anything and everything,” but especially fresh produce, dairy products, peanut butter and animal protein; drop-offs are accepted at 220 Collyer St. in Longmont), money (visit ourcenter.org/donate) and volunteers (call the front desk at 303.772.5529 and ask for Julie, Cowell says).

Peak Abundance

What they do: Among other things, Peak operates a food pantry and provides high-
quality produce and protein
to clients.

What they need: Money. Visit nederlandfoodpantry.org/donations

Sister Carmen

What they do: This community center does a lot, including running a food pantry.

What they need: Food donations. You can drop food at 655 Aspen Ridge Drive in Lafayette (find most-needed items at bit.ly/42OOoEY), purchase products from SC’s Amazon wish list (bit.ly/48nTSb6) or host a food drive (bit.ly/3UNjAmh).

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include Coal Creek Meals on Wheels and reflect Boulder Food Rescue’s current operations.