Food Bank of the Rockies responds to rising service demand, inflation

As inflation crimps the buying power and budget of the Food Bank of the Rockies (FBR), demand for service is on the rise. It’s a dichotomy that the organization’s volunteers, staff, executives and partners plan to take head-on.

Inflation is at about a half-century high. And the costs of basic necessities, such as housing, transportation, and food have skyrocketed, forcing more community members to seek food assistance as a way to stretch their family budgets, according to the FBR 2022 annual report.

At the same time, some staples the food bank provides are almost double in cost compared to last year. For the first time in many years, $1 spent by the organization now provides enough food for three meals, not four meals as in recent years past, the report said.

“Inflation is currently at a 40-year high, and food inflation is hitting Food Bank of the Rockies’ budget, too, with some staples costing as much as 70% more compared to last year,” said Erin Pulling, FBR president and CEO. “To meet the needs of our neighbors experiencing hunger, we are spending an additional $1.3 million or more on food purchasing every month — more than triple what we were spending pre-COVID. We’ve been able to meet the increased need thanks to the generous help of community members. We are grateful for their inspired support in answering the challenge of hunger across our communities.”

In the fiscal year 2022, FBR served more than 361,000 adult clients, and more than 98,000 children. Meals distributed on an average day were more than 178,000 and the total weight of food distributed was more than 80 million pounds.

With soaring gas prices, freight costs have increased, as much as 60% some months. Meanwhile, food donations from retailers, manufacturers, and agricultural partners, due to a global supply-chain shift, are on the decrease. Food donated through government programs is in current decline as well, as families on average are spending about $460 more per month on food, housing, and other essentials.

Founded in 1978, FBR serves more than 800 hunger-relief programs in northern Colorado and throughout Wyoming. Ninety-six cents of every dollar received by the organization goes toward hunger relief.

Martha King, 71, is among the 18,000 people who volunteer for FBR. King, who is retired, began volunteering around the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

“I knew when I retired one thing I wanted to do was get involved in some activities — volunteer work — to give back,” King said. “I`m very fortunate.”

King had volunteered for FBR, while she was still working, in a limited capacity. She lives fairly close to the warehouse in Denver and initially thought that she’d volunteer one or two days a week in retirement.

“I love it so much, I’ve gone five days a week for two years now,” King said with a laugh.

King drives forklifts and jacks pallets, filling them with food orders. It’s rigorous work that keeps her fit, she said. Most of all, she treasures the relationships she’s built with FBR staffers and other volunteers.

“It became my pandemic community,” King said. “I look forward to it, volunteering. Toward the end of the week, I’m like, ‘Darn, now I’ve got the weekend. What will I do?’ ”

Food Bank of the Rockies

Annual Budget: $156.3 M

Employees: 208, with 18,000 volunteers in a typical year

Founded Date: 1978

Clients Served in Fiscal Year 2022 (July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022): 460,158 individuals

Address: Food Bank of the Rockies, 10700 E. 45th Ave., Denver, 80239

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