DENVER — A southwest Denver food pantry that serves hundreds of people a week is considering limiting how often clients can visit.
Food pantries across Colorado have had to deal with record demand and rising food prices this year.
“We're actually seeing more individuals come in now than we ever did at the height of the pandemic, than we ever did at the height of closures,” said Allison Taggart, the program director at Integrated Family Community Services (IFCS).
IFCS operates a food market providing many of the same staples that are available at grocery stores.
“We pride ourselves on the ability to procure and have available nutritious foods for our families,” Taggart said.
Taggart said IFCS has gone from serving 50 households a day to 100.
While the pantry gets help from partners like The Food Bank of the Rockies, it must still buy the majority of its food at a time when food prices are rising, COVID-19 relief funding is drying up, and donations are down.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it expects grocery food prices to rise 3 to 4% next year.
That’s why IFCS is now considering something they never imagined: limiting how often clients can visit the pantry.
“We may have to limit to just once a month," Taggart said. “And that's to ensure that all who come to our organization receive food — and an adequate amount of food — and that we don't run out at the end of the month.”
The Biden administration is promising relief and plans to send about one billion dollars to food banks to help them keep local food pantries stocked.
According to a USDA press release, it’s part of a plan to provide $2 billion to bolster food banks and school meal programs across the country.
“Food banks and schools are the backbone of our nutrition safety net, serving tens of millions of children and families,” said Stacey Dean, deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “The Biden administration understands that supply chain disruptions and high food costs have created uncertainties for these crucial partners, and we are committed to equipping them with the resources they need to keep communities fed, strong, and healthy.”
It’s unclear when the money will arrive and whether it will be enough to meet the growing demand food pantries like the one IFCS are facing.
“Twenty-five percent of those coming into our food bank every day are brand new to our service, and they're brand new to a food pantry in general,” Taggart said. “They may have been individuals who have donated in the past, individuals who have come alongside us as volunteers, and now they are finding they need that help, especially with food.”
Taggart says IFCS plans to start preparing people for its possible policy change in the new year.
“We're hoping not to have to make that decision, but we're preparing people beginning Jan. 1 for a possible change in February and March,” Taggart said.
For more information on the services provided by IFCS or to make a donation, visit OneCanFeed.org.