Fall pantry highs & lows

The food bank at Broomfield FISH is currently running extra low on things like mixed fruit. (Marrton Dormish)
The food bank at Broomfield FISH is currently running low on important items like mixed fruit. (Marrton Dormish)

The shelves of Broomfield, Colorado’s two food pantries are uncomfortably empty right now.

“We are very low on inventory,” says Bryan Decker, director of the North Denver Cares Food Pantry (NDC). “We are usually out of food after being open the three days during the week.”

NDC’s Decker says, “Our biggest need at the present is for non-perishable items such as peanut butter, mac and cheese, canned tuna, fruit, veggies, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, and any other non-perishable food. We also see a big need for baby items—diapers, wipes, food and formula.”

Broomfield FISH also needs to augment its food bank supplies, despite a July drive by local churches and city employees that delivered 6,400 pounds of food and personal care items, and despite just receiving delivery of items from a food drive by the North Metro Fire Rescue District.

“When I was [at the food bank] Tuesday we had no meats, cheeses, [or] dairy,” FISH board member Karen Steele says.

FISH’s food room manager Mike Lutz agrees, “We’re really low on canned fruit, baking items, dry cereal, juice, personal care items—like shampoo, deodorant, soap, and feminie hygiene products—canned meat, canned peas, beef stew, crackers, condiments, jelly and Jell-O, potatoes and stuffing, and Hamburger Helper. We could use corn, green peas, mac and cheese, pasta sauce and tea. I do have refrigeration here so we can take dairy products, and meat as long as its in its original packaging. Flour and sugar we can take in bulk.”

“We definitely could use anything and everything,” says Lutz, who has been the food pantry manager at FISH for two and a half years. “Canned fruit is something I can’t believe we ran out of, and we did. For some [supplies] it seems like it’s a little bit shorter than it has been in the past.

“I think overall our donations are doing great and the community is doing great, but there are certainly things that we’re not able to keep up on. The need is really great right now, so we’re going through things just as fast as we’re getting them in.”

A half-full supply shelf at the Broomfield FISH food bank. (Marrton Dormish)
A half-full supply shelf at the Broomfield FISH food bank. (Marrton Dormish)

Groups planning food drives to benefit FISH this fall include Broomfield Heights Middle School and the Knights of Columbus at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church. The three main Broomfield high schools—Broomfield, Legacy and Holy Family—also plan to hold a food drive competition for FISH. Lutz says last year the three Broomfield high schools brought in more than 7,000 pounds of food and supplies for FISH’s food bank.

In nearby Lafayette, Colo., a drive on Aug. 27 by Flatirons Community Church delivered 108,461 pounds of food and other necessities to the Sister Carmen Community Center, which was featured on Dateline in June. Subsequent donations have increased the total of Flatiron’s drive to more than 110,000 pounds, says Ruth Perry, Sister Carmen’s food bank manager.

“This was the sixth annual food drive that [Flatirons] has done for us,” Perry says. “It is a very unique blessing beyond blessings, and puts us in a position where we can sustain our food bank.”

Last year, when Flatirons donated 224,973 pounds of food and supplies to Sister Carmen, Perry says, “We literally didn’t need to buy anything or have another food drive for eight months.

“The summer months put us in a situation where people generally are not thinking about food drives. Our shelves run very low and people get the same basic products over and over again. So for July and August we weren’t out of food, we weren’t in a crisis, but there was very little choice [in food items for clients].”

To help offset food supply shortages, among other benefits, Sister Carmen participates in a local cooperative with the Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) and the Our Center, through which all three non-profit agencies share resources and purchase food items and supplies in bulk, when necessary.

Perry hopes this year’s Flatirons food drive haul will last Sister Carmen through the first of the year.

“November and December is a heavy food drive time for food banks, so our quantity of product goes up considerably, and then come January, I’m fairly sure we’re going to run out of things much more quickly,” Perry says, noting that the first items to run low tend to be canned fruits, low- or no-sugar preferred items, canned meats—such as tuna, chicken and spam—Ramen noodles, detergent, and toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper. “Like every food bank, we are seeing many more families, the percentages are up, so the demand for food donations is going to increase as we move along until the economy does something a little more promising for people.”

Contact North Denver Cares, Broomfield FISHSister Carmen, or your local food bank directly to arrange a food drive or to donate food, supplies or other resources.

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