Not all hungry people live in faraway places

Imagine having to choose between food and medicine, and paying the rent or heating bill. Every day, Mesa County residents have to make these impossible choices. The Community Food Bank (CFB) is their lifeline.

CFB aims to aid the newly unemployed, seniors living on fixed incomes, minimum-wage earners holding down multiple jobs, veterans, disabled persons and single-parent families.

“We’re an emergency food bank,” CFB Director Darcy Johnson said. “We’re here to help people in crisis, usually a financial crisis of some sort. If they can get food today, they will be able to focus on the crisis at hand and not have to worry about how they are going to feed their family.”

Twenty percent of CFB clients are over age 50, and a rising number are taking care of their grandchildren. Approximately 20,000 families receive food boxes each year, translating to 180,000 meals. Each food box provides healthy food for the household for several days.

“We’ve had people come in and just burst into tears because it’s the first time they’ve had to do something like this,” Johnson said. “Clients can come up to nine times in a calendar year for food assistance.”

Very few do, however. Johnson said the average is two to three times per year.

“That tells us that people are coming here when they are really desperate,” CFB Board President Biff Messinger, 68, said. “We feel confident that those who come here truly need the food. We like to think we give our families an opportunity to be productive and give back, and I think we do that.”

A generous community

In 1978, a group of churches and organizations came together to study hunger. Though world hunger was their original focus, it quickly shifted closer to home. After identifying a gap in services for the hungry locally, CFB was formed.

The gracious hearts of community members are crucial, as CFB serves based on need, not income, meaning CFB is unable to receive help through government grants.

“People’s generosity with food, money and volunteering allows [CFB] to exist,” Messinger said.

CFB averages 40 volunteers at any given time—a group largely made up of seniors, Johnson said. Many CFB clients have chosen to payback the community’s kindness by volunteering.

While CFB’s largest food item donor remains anonymous, churches and local business are also big donors.

Community food drives are an important source of provisions for CFB, which has information about holding a successful food drive available to the public.

“We need free food,” Messinger said. “It’s good to have discounted food to buy, but we count on the food collected at food drives.”

People often confuse CFB with Food Bank of the Rockies, which is a regional organization that supplies agencies like CFB with food at a discounted rate.

“They serve agencies where we serve individuals,” Johnson said. “Our whole goal is to get food as cheaply as we can. We always use donated food first.”

All CFB donations stay in Mesa County.

The big move

Recently CFB lost its housing in a county building downtown, where it was paying just $120 per month for 7,000 square feet.

Finding a new location with that kind of deal was rendered impossible after inspecting 80 properties across the valley. So CFB settled into their new home at 562 W. Crete Circle, behind Sam’s Club, with less than half the space for a much higher rent.

With increased operation costs,
CFB is in need of donations more than ever before. They are
especially in need of:

• Dry or shelf-stable milk

• Canned meats and dried beans

• Canned fruits and vegetables

• Whole-grain foods such as
brown rice, cereal and
whole-wheat pasta

• 100% fruit juice and coffee

• Peanut butter

• Fresh produce

• Dog and cat food

• Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Monetary donations are also appreciated. For as little as $3, CFB can provide a family of four three meals a day for three days.

For details, call Johnson at 640-0336 or visit www.foodbankgj.org.

Melanie Wiseman

Melanie Wiseman

Melanie Wiseman is passionate about writing and loves sharing the stories of family, love, volunteering and adventure of the people she interviews. Raised in Wisconsin, she has called western Colorado home for more than 30 years. She loves traveling, reading, photography, hiking, camping, biking, cross-country skiing and exploring the outdoors with her husband, Dan, and Papillon, Abby.
Melanie Wiseman

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