DENVER - Since Oct. 2021, the Clayton Cares Market has provided food and necessities for over 52 families a week.
The market is an extension of Clayton Early Learning, a development program that serves children ages 0 to 5 who live in and around low-income areas.
“Clayton takes a whole child, whole family approach. And so, although early education is the core of what we do here on our campus and in the community, serving the basic needs of our families is also critically important to the development of our young children that we serve,” said Sarah Berkman, vice president of development for Clayton Early Learning. “The market has perishable and nonperishable goods, household products, feminine hygiene products, protein milks of every kind. But the idea is to ensure that we are providing fresh and nutritious foods to our families each week."
Berkman says each family’s individual needs matter, and that’s why the market chose to implement a survey-based checkout system.
“What's great about the process that we've implemented here is that the checkout process allows families to identify products that aren’t currently being offered," she said.
“They let me pick everything that I want to get. A lot of food pantries don't let you do that,” Wendy Zazueta said. “Personally, I save probably over $50 a week getting groceries here, and they have everything that I use at home. So like tomatoes, onions, we use that to make salsa. Sometimes they have jalapenos, they have milk all the time.”
Since Oct. 2021, Clayton Cares Market has served just shy of 1,900 families and distributed more than 42,000 pounds of fresh, nonperishable foods. However, Berkman says the most important resource they can share is the reassurance that someone cares during these hard times.
“The rising cost of products these days and gas prices, being able to access a free grocery market for these families is invaluable to not only the nutrition and the health of the children, but for the entire family unit," she said.
Right now, the market serves mainly families that are enrolled in the program, but they hope to soon expand operations. For more information on how to visit or how to volunteer at the market, click here.