Gov. Jared Polis visits food banks and encourages donations

Gov. Jared Polis at Food Bank of the RockiesColorado Gov. Jared Polis visited Food Bank of the Rockies in Denver Monday to highlight the work of the organization and emphasize the continued need for donations and volunteers to help fight hunger across the state.

During his early afternoon visit, Gov. Polis filmed a series of public services announcements and toured the facility before taking questions from the press. He also took time to help volunteers stack food on a pallet and load a vehicle with goods ready to be delivered to Coloradans in need.

“I’m asking Coloradans to step up and support the state’s five food banks, which will need the resources to feed those in need because of the continued political dysfunction in Washington,” Polis said. “We can do this. We’ve faced difficult and challenging times in our state and we’ve come together.”

The need for volunteers and donations at Colorado’s food banks was brought to the forefront by the recent partial shutdown of the federal government. Federal employees and contractors were forced to go several weeks without paychecks, and many were worried about how they would be able to feed themselves and their families.

In addition, there was question about whether the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be funded during the shutdown. Close to 220,000 Coloradans depend on SNAP each month, and while February’s benefits were allowed to be distributed in mid-January due to the shutdown, there was much concern about those families having enough food if the shutdown stretched several more weeks or longer.

Due to these situations, the Colorado Department of Human Services encouraged Colorado communities to donate funds to or volunteer their time at local food banks or social service agencies.

While an agreement was reached to end the shutdown last week, many federal employees still haven’t received a paycheck. And there is a chance that the federal government could be shut down again in mid-February, putting SNAP benefits for March in question, and meaning federal workers and contractors would possibly again go without paychecks. Thus, the need for donations and volunteers continues.

“There are thousands of Colorado families that haven’t gotten a paycheck in well over a month simply because they work for the federal government or are contractors for the federal government,” Polis said Monday. “Until they get a paycheck, it’s important that we all step up and make sure they have the ability to put food on their table. And of course many of these families also risk another shutdown in only three short weeks.”

Polis said that while the food banks did see an increase in donations during the shutdown, many are dipping into their reserves due to increased workload of staff and volunteers and operating costs. Polis said many food banks responded to the increased need due to the shutdown with mobile pantries and expanded hours.

“These foodbanks need our help,” Polis said. “While the federal government is temporarily re-opened, there is no guarantee after Feb. 15, nor do our contractors have any guarantee.”

Polis said a donation of $1 can provide four meals for needy families.

“I’m asking my fellow Coloradans to do what we always do when trouble arises, and that’s pitch in and help our neighbors and friends and fellow Coloradans to get through a tough time,” Polis said.

The government shutdown notwithstanding, food insecurity remains a serious issue in the state. Currently, one in 10 Coloradans struggle with hunger and one in six Colorado children may not know when or where they might get their next meal. In addition, one in 10 Colorado seniors struggle with food security.

The Food Bank of the Rockies is part of a network of five Feeding America food banks serving the entire state of Colorado. Other food banks in the state include Care and Share Food Bank, Community Food Share, Weld Food Bank and Food Bank for Larimer County.

Together, the five food banks receive and distribute enough food for more than 100 million meals annually, according to Erin Pulling, president and CEO of Food Bank of the Rockies. “This past month we’ve seen a tremendously increased need throughout the state. And as food banks, along with our nearly 1,500 community partners addressing food insecurity, we have stepped up. Through increased outreach, food distribution and mobile pantries, we have been able to be here for those in need and those newly in need.”

If you'd like to help feed your fellow Coloradans, you can make donations at the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger website. For more information on the state’s food banks, go to www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/colorado.

Above, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is led on a tour of the Food Bank of the Rockies warehouse by Janie Gianotsos, the organization's director of marketing and community relations.