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In 2022, food prices rose about 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This “above historical average” increase is expected to continue in 2023, when food prices are predicted to rise an additional three to four percent.
With grocery bills ballooning, many Coloradans are facing food insecurity—but there are nonprofits working to help. Here are five local organizations working toward a more stable and nutritious future for the community.
Conscious Alliance brings people together across the arts, music, and food industries for one common goal: feeding those in need. It all started in 2002 when the String Cheese Incident played a concert at the Fillmore Auditorium; attendees who brought 10 cans of food received an exclusive poster. More than 4,000 pounds of food were collected that night.
Today, the nonprofit partners with hundreds of musicians across the U.S. every year, from the Dave Matthews Band to the Lumineers to Nathaniel Rateliff. Executive Director Justin Levy says Conscious Alliance provided more than two million meals to people in need in 2022, despite the uncertain footing the year started off on.
“We ended 2021 with smoke billowing over our building [from the Marshall Fire],” Levy says. The fire just missed their national distribution center in Broomfield, and “by 2 p.m. that day we were feeding all of the firefighters and national guards, and we expanded that to providing compassionate care and consistent care [throughout the year] for folks who lost their homes.
Women’s Bean Project
The Denver-based Women’s Bean Project empowers women to “transform their lives through employment.” It does this by hiring women who are chronically unemployed and giving them full-time work making soup mixes, coffees, teas, dog treats, and other goodies. This helps them develop skills, secure work after their time in the program ends, and ultimately become self-sufficient.
The products are sold online and on shelves in more than 1,000 stores nationwide, including King Soopers, Whole Foods, and Safeway.
Mountain Roots Food Project
Based in the Gunnison Valley, the Mountain Roots Food Project is a food systems initiative that focuses on educating the community and providing it with healthy, local eats. The nonprofit’s work is done through a multifaceted approach: operating eight acres of in-ground and container farms; the Farm to School program that yearly helps 2,000 K-12 students in Gunnison and Crested Butte learn about nutrition and making healthy food choices; and by fighting food insecurity with free produce boxes.
This year, Mountain Roots launched two hydroponic farms, yielding a lettuce harvest that was distributed to families in need, and two more farms are in the works for 2023. “By bolstering all of the links in the chain, that’s how we create the most robust, resilient, and equitable food system,” says Rachel Branham, the organization’s development director.
Feeding Colorado is made up of five state food banks, all working together to address hunger throughout Colorado and Wyoming. Amy Pezzani, CEO of the Food Bank for Larimer County and chair of Feeding Colorado, says that in spite of 2022’s challenges of rising food prices and decreased food availability from programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program, Feeding Colorado was still able to distribute food for more than 100 million meals this year.
Heading into 2023, Feeding Colorado is working toward universal school meals for children, consistent access to meals for kids when schools aren’t in session, and expanding programs that funnel surplus food from farms to food banks. “Right now, food banks are a critical component of a multi-pronged effort to make sure everyone can get the food they need, and we want to make sure our food banks stay strong,” Pezzani says.
Hunger Free Colorado
Hunger Free Colorado works to connect people in need to resources like child nutrition programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), immigrant rights organizations, diabetes prevention programs, and more.
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the nonprofit, 33 percent of Coloradans lack reliable access to healthy food. The organization wants to bring that number to zero by making sure every resident, no matter their identity and background, has access to delicious, healthy sustenance.