Food Bank fights food insecurity with EverGreen BoxesJun 28, 2022 11:12AM ● By Jan Weeks
We’ve all heard stories of older Americans who must choose between their medications and groceries, and the old lady living on cat food. As much as we would wish otherwise, food insecurity is a very real issue in Western Colorado, and older people on fixed incomes suffer from it.
Fortunately, help is available through Food Bank of the Rockies in the form of EverGreen Boxes, a program of Everyday Eats, specifically for Colorado residents over 60.
Sue Ellen Rodwick, the food bank’s director, knows about choosing between food and other necessities, even though she’s nowhere near 60. When Rodwick suddenly found herself a single parent to an infant, she found help through a local organization that directed her to the food bank.
“I thought I’d get boxed macaroni and cheese. Instead, I found organic produce and food. I thought, ‘Wow! I can eat this,’” said Rodwick.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture donates surplus shelf-stable supplies, which make up the basis of each box. A typical box might include low-sodium canned vegetables, such as tomatoes and corn; milk that doesn’t need refrigeration; bags of beans and boxes of pasta; sugar-free canned fruits and a block of cheese. Food bank volunteers add fresh produce such as carrots, sweet corn, apples and greens, along with recipes that are printed in both English and Spanish.
Rodwick also praised local growers such as Talbott Farms in Palisade, Spring Born Organic Farm in Silt and Tuxedo Farms in Olathe, as well as the CSU research farm on Orchard Mesa, which sell produce at a discount or donate excesses outright.
“I’m really excited to get the word out about EverGreen Boxes. We distribute them over 12 counties on the Western Slope,” said Rodwick. “You get what you get, and if there’s something you don’t like or can’t eat, you can give it back or donate it to someone who can use it.”
Each recipient receives one box a month. Those wishing to receive boxes must meet income guidelines and sign up at the food bank, located at 120 N. River Road in Palisade. All ages and types of households are eligible for food, although EverGreen Boxes are only for seniors. The maximum monthly income ranges from $1,396 for one person up to $2,871 for four people. Over four residents add $492 per month of cost to income levels.
Rodwick explained that current clients often refer others, and friends who are food secure may refer someone they know is struggling. If clients can’t physically come to the distribution centers, they may sign a proxy form so that a friend or relative may pick up food for them.
“Not being able to make ends meet is nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of people are only one unexpected bill away from needing food assistance,” said Rodwick.
Pets aren’t forgotten, either. Many seniors rely on a dog or cat for companionship, so Food Bank of the Rockies partners with the Colorado Pet Pantry to include pet food with people food.
Since 2017, the food bank has expanded its operation on the Western Slope by 94 percent, increasing from 7.1 million pounds distributed in 2017 to more than 11.8 million pounds in 2021.
The food bank is in the process of moving to a new facility, the Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center, a 50,400 square foot building on 23 Road, which will quadruple the refrigeration space, provide 40 percent more dry storage, and more than double the freezer capacity. St. Mary’s Meals on Wheels will also be headquartered there. Rodwick said there will be a “clean room” where dehydrators will turn produce into fruit leather and other shelf-stable products.
The food bank is always looking for volunteers to pack boxes or tech-savvy folks to help with data entry. For information about receiving food, volunteering or donating, visit www.foodbankrockies.org or call 970-464-1138.