More food is wasted in America than in any other country.
The US Food and Drug Administration estimates that at any given time, up to 40% of the US food supply is on its way to, or at, its final destination – not the dining table, but landfills, which take up more space inside. landfills than any other type of waste.
Any food that isn’t consumed is wasted food – a burger half eaten, apples left to rot on a tree or in a fruit bowl. But much of what is ultimately discarded is still not only perfectly safe for human consumption, but remains intact and as delicious as ever: frozen pizzas and family-sized pies that aren’t dragged down by their conservative “sell by” dates, Corn Flakes that don’t pass Kellogg’s quality control. , fried chicken without sufficient breading.
Not counting the viable food left by consumers, up to 52 billion pounds of products and products from grocery stores, restaurants and other food producers are thrown away each year, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit that helps identify and direct what they can to a national network of food banks.
One of them, Colorado Springs-based Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, has rescued such food locally and provided it to struggling individuals and families for nearly 50 years. It was a complex mission that required agile and creative thinking even before the pandemic, said the nonprofit’s CEO, Lynn Telford.
“At Care and Share, we’ve been through previous disasters – Waldo Gorge, Black Forest Fires, government shut down,” he said. “I think it helped prepare us in a number of ways. But this one has been going on for much longer. We have to worry about the safety of our own people apart from bringing out more food, and dealing with people who have never asked for food before. We’ve really changed a lot of the way we do business. “
Founded in 1972 by a Pueblo native and Franciscan Sister Dominique Pisciotta, Care and Share initially fought hunger in the community by installing food baskets in a volunteer basement and two car garages on South Wahsatch Street.
Today, they collect, inspect, and distribute more than 20 million pounds of food, mostly donated to 282 soup kitchens, soup kitchens, and other partners in 31 counties in southern Colorado. Since 2009, it has operated from its eastern Colorado Springs base, with a large three-story Indiana Jones-style warehouse with towering rows of shelves, cold storage, inspection, and staging areas for constantly moving groceries.
“This facility is truly transformative for Care and Share,” said COO Shannon Coker. “Before opening this facility, we would refuse more food every year than we distribute because we don’t have space.”
Last month, Care and Share opened its first food kitchens in Fountain and in Pueblo. They operate on a model intended to provide a more intimate and dignified shopping experience. The organization also introduced a mobile marketplace, a “wheeled grocery store” in reusable beverage trucks that travels to neighborhoods hard hit by the pandemic, and where residents may face financial and geographic barriers to accessing these resources.
The US Department of Agriculture’s 2019 household food insecurity report found that more than 35 million Americans are struggling with hunger. Feeding America estimates that number was closer to 50 million last year, as more families and individuals faced job breaks and losses, and panicked buying stripped store shelves.
“The pandemic hits us twofold, where we see more and more neighbors needing access to food … and a decrease in the amount of food we can get through our usual channels,” said Coker, a Springs native who traced his passion for his job to becoming a volunteered she did in high school, for the food movers Care and Share’s Harvest of Love.
For hand-to-mouth operations with lined orders that “really, every day, to get as much food as we can get, wherever we can get it,” it’s a constant hope that the source won’t run dry, says Coker.
Over the past year, they have been doing it regularly.
The hoarding behavior that emerged at the start of the pandemic meant fewer supplies for food banks, which saw a “big drop” in the amount of food traditionally received from big grocery store partners around the city such as King Soopers and Walmart, Coker said.
A later resurgence in the case of the virus triggered an increase in that behavior again around the holiday. And then a series of severe winter weather, in Colorado and across the country, in early 2021 has affected the amount of food available locally and through Feeding America.
“Even though the pandemic has affected many things, the food is out there. It’s a matter of food banks getting and distributing them to people in need, ”said Coker.
When it can’t get food, the organization buys it: Its board has approved an additional $ 3 million in spending on food purchases during the pandemic, Cocker said.
Although Care and Share supports a number of shelters and soup kitchens in Southern Colorado that feed the homeless, most of the 22 million pounds of food distributed between July 2019 and June 2020 went to agencies and food banks serving low-income working individuals and families. .
“So many families we help work, and can’t make their salaries cover all the bills. They are seniors with fixed income, “said Coker.
It is not just about food, but about enabling struggling families to use the money they are supposed to spend on other basic necessities.
“With the recent cold clashes we’ve seen, those electricity bills are rising, and sometimes it’s just hard to move the food budget around,” said Coker.
If it weren’t for the weekly groceries she gets from the nonprofit Care and Share agency, Tri-Lakes Cares, at the Monument – well, Suzi Huette says she prefers not to imagine what life is like.
“Say you’ll never be in this situation? I don’t think I will, but I couldn’t be more blessed to have these people in my life, because they’ve enriched me,” said Huette, 76. “I don’t want to. can’t afford some of my medicine, because it would be too expensive for me to go to the grocery store and get some of the food I like. “
For Lorie Hicks, 53, of Monument, what some call “saved food” has become a lifeboat for her and her family after she started suffering from the debilitating effects of lupus at age 40, and eventually had to give up. spa business the day she started.
“Even through all this, we’ve just made the transition. Never been left behind, at all, so far with COVID. It’s comforting in all the distress of all the chaos, ”said Hicks, who cares for an adult son with disabilities. “Without them, I don’t know how we will survive. We won’t do it, to be honest. “
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