GREELEY, COLO. — Volunteers on Wednesday rushed food out to those in Greeley who turned up at the Weld Food Bank for its emergency food program.
"They were getting a healthy assortment of produce items. We had some meats. We also have a box of some shelf-stable items packaged to really help a family get through a couple of days," said Weston Edmunds with Weld Food Bank.
There's been a lot of new faces reaching out for help, according to Edmunds. The food bank is serving around 19,000 people per month — double what it served this time last year, and four times as many people pre-pandemic.
"Before, they weren't really needing this type of help. This isn't a situation they're used to being in," said Edmunds. "About 70% of the folks coming in here have a full-time employed adult in the household. They have regular steady income. It's just not enough."
At the same time that emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allotments ended, the cost of food items went up.
"There are some estimates that indicate the cost of all food items is up about 5% from this time last year," said Karla Maraccini, division director of the Food & Energy Assistance Department within the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS).
Maraccini said it's critical to provide programs for families to help supplement their budget. CDHS will be keeping a close eye on the upcoming special legislative session.
"There is legislation that's going to be introduced that would allow us the opportunity to launch a new program," said Maraccini. "Children and youth who are enrolled in free and reduced-price lunch at a National School Lunch participating school, for those who are participating in SNAP, TANF, which is called Colorado Works here, or Medicaid will be able to receive an additional benefit to help families access healthy meals during the summer months."
If approved by lawmakers, families could get $40 per student, per months while school is out, or a total of $120.
"We have a January 1 deadline with the USDA to indicate our intent to participate. And we need both the authority and the administrative funding in order to launch that program for it to be successful for summer 2024," said Maraccini.
Many families will be leaning on local food banks to fill in the gaps heading into an already-strained holiday season.
"These families who are already struggling to put food day to day on their tables, to add another $100, $150 for the food for this special meal is really difficult for them," said Edmunds.
Edmunds said at this time, any donation or volunteer is a huge help. You can sign up for food assistance or to donate to Weld Food Bank at weldfoodbank.org.
If you are in need of food assistance, there are additional resources
- The USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program connects low-income families with U.S.-grown food.
- The Double Up Food Bucks program gives you dollar-for-dollar benefits back when you use your EBT card to buy fresh healthy foods.
- You can click here for a list of all food banks and pantries in our state.
The state also offers the following for those who may be impacted by this change:
- Roll over unused SNAP benefits to the next month. Unused benefits can remain on EBT cards for up to nine months. This may help cushion the impact of the reduction in benefits.
- Stock up on non-perishable items now while you have the additional benefits. (View tips on stocking your pantry in English or Spanish.)
- Stretch food ingredients and plan to use them in more than one meal. This helps to save money and reduce food waste. (View tips on stretching ingredients in English or Spanish.)
- Consider freezing produce to make fruit and vegetables last longer. (View tips on freezing food in English or Spanish.)
- Look at unit prices to compare similar products at the grocery store. (View tips on comparing prices in English or Spanish.)